Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Thoughts

In April of 1836, General Sam Houston and his Texas troops defeated General Santa Anna and Mexico’s troops, in a horrific hand-to-hand battle on the swampy marshlands of Buffalo Bayou.  Santa Anna escaped this bloody twenty-minute battle, disguised as a private. 

But Sam Houston sent scouts to give chase, capturing Santa Anna before he could reunite with his several thousand troops on the west banks of the Brazos River.  It was this capture of Santa Anna that resulted in the Mexican troops withdrawing from Texas.  It was the revenge-driven tenacity of Sam Houston’s wounded and weary soldiers that gained Texas its independence.  And without Texas gaining independence from Mexico, it is unlikely that the U.S. could have acquired the Republic of Texas in 1845.

These two oversimplified paragraphs follow suit to neatly written history books and websites.  They do not detail the butchering and killing by, and to, both countries’ troops. They do not detail the multi-year fighting and killing that would continue.  War can be neatly summarized in books and romanticized in film.  The ugly details can be omitted. 

But war is never neatly experienced by those that serve; the trauma and pain cannot be avoided, or forgotten, by those that live to carry the memories; the loss of body parts; the scars of human traumas that Mother Nature did not intend.  
I come from a strongly patriotic family.  My father and several uncles served in WWII.  A brother and multiple cousins are veterans.  And at an early age, my patriotic family taught me to give thanks and gratitude to those that we now call veterans. 

In 1836 they called themselves Texans; freedom fighters that would not accept anything less than independence from a country they did not choose to honor with their citizenship.  It is pretty obvious that in today’s world there are a multitude of citizens, in countries an ocean away, who feel the same way. 
And I’m not sure if these freedom fighters of today’s world would see my beloved country as helping or hurting their cause.  I’m not sure if their recent or age-old warring factions would consider we Americans as the good guys or the bad guys.  And I’m definitely not sure if their definition of freedom and my definition of freedom would have much, if anything, in common. 

I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I wonder about what is neatly termed as nation building; as international peace keeping.  I get a really sick feeling in my stomach when I wonder the day-in-the-life of our veterans serving in such “conflicts”.
I’d much rather wonder about a world where fighting veterans were not required; where wars and the rumors of wars had evolved out of the human condition.  But I am a birder; and my binoculars’ view of creation makes me a realist.  A day in Mother Nature’s field is not a day at Disney World. 

As long as nesting sites are coveted; as long as winter berries are in limited supply; and as long as mating rituals include bettering the competition, feathers will fly.  And as long as birding nature is mimicked by human nature, infighting, skirmishes and wars will be fought.
I do not pretend to have any answers for the complexities of today’s nation building pursuits and responses.  And yes, I do have my opinions.  But today’s blog is different than my normal birding, travel and RVing posts.  Today’s blog is to share that I believe the importance of Veterans Day is to remind us that EVERY DAY we should give thanks and gratitude to our veterans who serve. 

A thankful voice can do some; but gratitude, with action, can do much more. 
I want our fighting veterans to come home; to find educational opportunities waiting for them; to find jobs waiting for them; and to find communities that honor them and assist them with what the aftermath of service has made hard.  

But most of all I want our veterans to come home and feel needed as citizens, not returned to feel retired as wounded warriors.
I post today’s blog with thanks and gratitude to the U.S. Veterans.  Please share it with someone you know.

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