Perhaps it was growing up in the Southwest. Perhaps it was seeing my father struggle with unwanted exile from his country during the Lebanese Civil War, or the endless early morning phone calls that punctuated our sleep with the death of a loved one due to gunfire and bombs. I don’t know the exact reason, but Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving afflict me with an intense holiday sadness. It is difficult not to count up bodies at a time when I am meant to reflect on liberties. I am a person who constantly seeks balance. If you say to me, “There is a wall to protect us,” I think of how there are people on both sides. If you tell me to celebrate my freedom, I reflect on those who lost theirs or never had any to begin with.
So, instead of observing only surviving service-persons, I want to take a moment to recognize survivors of all types–those of us who have fought for an idea we believed to be right and good, whether it was for country, God or money. I also want to recognize those who have not survived and those who continue on as victims in their war. When you look closely, we are all veterans of hardship. We can choose to fight with each other or for each other, but we all must carry on as warriors for ourselves.
This is not meant to lessen service in war. My uncle was an American veteran. I have many friends who are also survivors of America’s wars. To all of you, I wish you hadn’t had to fight, but you did. I recognize you as warriors. I thank you for your belief in our shared rights. I am sorry for what you have lost. I wish you no more wars and better care by the country you believed in enough to fight for. You deserve more than a day and a free meal in recognition of what you will carry for a lifetime.