We walked around the small town of Bandon waiting for the stores to open on a rainy, breezy Veterans Day. We wanted to taste local cranberries, so we piled into the Cranberry Sweets store just after someone unlocked the door at ten a.m.
After listening to the historical spiel, we walked around the store tasting candies to our hearts’ content.
“Happy Veterans Day,” the overly coffee’d retail worker sang. “Any veterans in the group?”
My daughter, who was caught in her tractor beam while she waited for popcorn samples to be put out, looked at her mother and then me, and shook her head no.
For some reason, I felt compelled to speak up. “No, no veterans in our family.”
My grandfathers didn’t fight in World War II. My dad and his brothers didn’t fight in Vietnam or Korea. I missed the first Iraq war by a year.
It seems we’ve come of age in between the wars that seemed to define each generation.
I’m going to go out on a ledge and say that some gnarled branch on my family tree was made up of freedom-fighting soldiers, but we don’t know much about the families before they came to America.
We don’t have a lot of ribbons or metals. There are no old uniforms folded proudly in closets. We didn’t grow up hearing stories of Normandy or Khe Sanh. There were no familiar graves to leave flowers by on Memorial Day.
This family didn’t feel the cost of freedom in the same way many other Americans have felt it. But I have not seen a more patriotic group of flag-waving, national anthem singing Americans than my family.
Perhaps that’s because during some of the greatest conflicts of the past century we were walking across continents, through the driest deserts, over the tallest mountain ranges and over oceans toward a freedom inconceivable but for the whispers and rumors that trickled into their Soviet Union.
America’s freedom song calls to many across the world. Those who endure the trials and tribulations of the journey to get here are no less grateful for the sacrifices of those who’ve given their lives to provide it.
The beauty in this great big old country is in the diversity of life thriving in these freedoms provided by those who gave their lives, and in these fields tilled by immigrants, these cities built by generations, some who fought and some who did not.