First published November 11, 2011.
It’s simple to become a veteran. You either enlist or are drafted into the military. You survive. You get out of the military. You are automatically a vet. No application process.
I’m not saying that it is easy, mind you, only that it is simple.
In between the entering and the exiting is the hard part. That’s when you spend every day, every minute, doing what someone else tells you to do. That’s when you move from hours or days of tedium into minutes or days of terror and back. That’s when a fabulous day is a day when nothing happens. There are a thousand painful decisions to respect someone else’s authority, even when you don’t respect someone else. There are a hundred thousand decisions to reenlist.
Part of the reason that veterans, heroic veterans, say they aren’t heroes is because they think that the heroes are the guys next to them that didn’t live long enough to be veterans. Part of the reason is that they were just doing the daily work. And the daily work just happens to include saving lives of buddies under fire.
Becoming a veteran of other things is simple and hard, too. To be a parent is to show up a hundred thousand times. To be a spouse is to make a thousand decisions to honor the other person. It’s simple. There isn’t much debate. But showing up every day can be tough. And following Jesus, for the disciples, was the same kind of showing up. Happy or sad. Believing or questioning. But still showing up.
In some places today, it’s Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Here in the US, it’s Veterans Day. My dad never made a big deal. But then, he came back. He did, however, always remember.
We can too.
For a powerful story of what it takes to become a vet, read“No Place to Hide.” It’s the story of Dr. Lee Warren, a neurosurgeon from Texas who goes to Iraq in 2004-5 and operates in the tents that make up an Air Force hospital. When I read it, I thought about my dad going through that kind of hospital in Korea.