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Honoring Veterans

Veteran's Day and the Marine Corps Birthday are more than annual civic rituals; they are poignant reminders of valor and the enduring spirit of service. As we pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifices of those who have donned the nation’s uniform, we also encounter a deep-seated desire for peace that many veterans carry with them—a desire born from the firsthand knowledge of war's harrowing costs.

My uncle, for whom I am named, Raymond L. Sanford's grave at Normandy
My uncle, for whom I am named, Raymond L. Sanford's grave at Normandy

November 11th, Veteran's Day, honors the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that the guns of World War I fell silent, and in that silence, a commitment to peace grew. Similarly, November 10th marks the Marine Corps Birthday, a celebration of its founding in 1775 and a day for Marines to reflect on their proud heritage and the legacy of their corps' service to the country.

The proximity of these dates serves as a powerful narrative—veterans, many of whom have seen the worst of human conflict, are among the most fervent advocates for peace. It’s a well-documented irony that the warriors who have navigated the front lines are often the first to champion the cause of conflict resolution and to support efforts that ensure others do not have to endure similar hardships.

This advocacy for peace becomes tangible when we see veterans engaging in acts of profound empathy and solidarity, such as their support for the orphans of war and conflict. Having witnessed the devastation that warfare brings to the most vulnerable, many veterans are moved to take action, working with orphans who have lost everything to war. They establish and volunteer with organizations aimed at providing a lifeline to these children—securing their education, health, and well-being.

SJC Rotarians support Montagnard orphanages in Vietnam.
SJC Rotarians support Montagnard orphanages in Vietnam.

It's a testament to their character that veterans would choose to invest in the lives of young strangers, many from lands they once might have called the enemy. Such work highlights a seldom-discussed aspect of military service—the ability to recognize shared humanity even in the face of conflict.

Moreover, the psychological aspects of this involvement are profound. For veterans, the act of nurturing those who have been caught in the crossfire of conflicts they once fought in is a way of reasserting control, of healing from their own scars of war. Helping others, especially children who represent innocence and future potential, can provide a path towards personal peace. It's a reciprocal relationship of healing and growth, where the act of giving support is also a means of receiving it.

The structured nature of Veteran's Day and the Marine Corps Birthday also offers a shared moment for reflection and healing. These occasions allow veterans to reconnect with their past, to find meaning in their service, and to celebrate the camaraderie that can only be forged in the crucible of shared hardship.

In honoring our veterans, we recognize the complexity of their experiences—their sacrifices and their service, their silent burdens, and their ceaseless pursuit of peace. By championing the causes they hold dear, such as the welfare of war orphans, we continue the legacy of service and leadership that is their gift to us. It is in this spirit that we celebrate these significant days, acknowledging that the path to peace is walked together, step by step, with those who understand its price best.

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