“Captain Montgomery once said to me that for us, there is no victory. There are only battles. And in the end, the best you can hope for is to find a place to make your stand. And if you’re very lucky, you find someone willing to stand with you.”
– Kate Beckett, Castle
Season 3, Episode 24, “Knockout”
My country had its Veterans’ Day holiday this last week. We didn’t really do much to honor them as a country, which I think is not a point in our favor, but I really wanted to have an appropriate quote last week. I count myself blessed to have something more akin to honoring our veterans this week, at least. They all signed up to give whatever was asked of them and more, all for the sake of people like me who get to sleep in safety and who will never know most of them. That is an immense thing which cannot be honored enough, I believe.
When Beckett says this, she is speaking as a police officer at the funeral of Captain Roy Montgomery, a man who took her under his wing and mentored her as she became an officer and a detective on his force in New York. He taught her everything he could, watched her back, and he died in her defense. He was a warrior, a protector, and a hero to his last breath, though he was haunted by the extended consequences of mistakes he made in his younger days. Even so, he carried on, never looking for glory or power or even peace. He just fought on in defense of others in an incalculable degree of sacrifice.
That is what they do. Soldiers, officers, firemen, paramedics, and the people of any other occupation who give everything they have, whatever it is, in service to those around them: give their all.
Every story about our existence, in every religion, mythology, fairy tale, movie, and dogma, is about the final victory. It’s about winning. Doing it all, winning it all, overcoming everything, so everyone good is happy. The fairy tale ending, “Happily Ever After.” And I do believe that happiness awaits us in due time, but in the meantime, we live here, in this hard, unforgiving world, where everything amounts to a never-ending battle. Winning literally isn’t everything. We don’t “win” in this world, we just do our best.
So the soldier fights, rank upon rank, generation after generation, with no end in sight. The police officer protects, often in a lifelong commitment, witnessing some of the worst horrors of humanity, while also being vilified, again, for unending generations. The fireman braves the inferno, the paramedic risks life and limb and any number of diseases, and all of them witness enough tragedy and heartbreak to break even the strongest of men, despite all of their best efforts.
And though they bear the brunt of humanity’s pain, they are not alone. Teachers try to save and cultivate young minds, never knowing which of their students is trapped in Hell at home. Honest leaders in office try to keep things running smoothly despite a myriad of influences which seem hellbent on mucking everything up. Counselors try to rehabilitate troubled youth or hardened criminals. Utility workers work in any condition to maintain the infrastructure of entire cities (imagine being a lineman in Alaska, climbing power poles to conduct repairs in a raging, sub-zero blizzard so residents can heat their homes and not freeze to death). Lawyers, librarians, authors, bankers, entrepreneurs, parents, priests… everyone has some part to play in holding back everything that is wrong with the world and maybe, just maybe, fixing some small corner of it. And janitors clean up the mess so things stay hygienic.
All of us, together, each doing our own part… that is what keeps society going. That is the line we hold every single day, and we we hold it together.
So, to all who serve, in any capacity, I am thankful for your service and your sacrifice.
With all my heart, I salute you.