Sunday’s Wisdom #416: Our Veterans’ Sacrifice

“When I return home, I will swallow every horrible thing I’ve done here. And I will smile when I’m with her. I swear on my life, I will make her happy.”
– Maes Hughes, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
OVA 4, “Yet Another Man’s Battlefield”

This is part of Maes’ answer to a question from his friend and comrade about when they get home from a terrible war: can he hold the woman he loves in such blood-soaked hands as he has, as they all have? The answer is yes, because Maes is determined to be the man she loves, a selfless man of principle and honor who does what he must to protect himself, his comrades, his country, and her, and then comes home to love his family and make them happy. He will let nothing stop him in that goal, not even the hell of war itself.

This week is my country’s Veteran’s Day. It’s not nearly as honored as I think it should be, but it’s where we are to take a moment and remember the people who have served in our armed forces and come back alive. Memorial Day is where we remember those who died, and Veteran’s Day is where we remember those who survived.

There is very little that we can do, I think, to properly repay what they have given, offered, lost, or had taken from them in service to our nation. Many of those who came back alive came back very different from who they were before. They have come back with injuries to the body, and to the mind, to the heart and soul. They have all but walked straight through a slaughterhouse, and done some slaughtering of their own. One cannot still be human without that leaving some sort of mark.

They come back from all that, from things which shattered them and their comrades, and they resume normal, everyday life: go to work, pay the bills, find someone to love, get married, and raise the kids, with all that entails, including teaching, protecting, playing, etc.

Some men and women have trouble with that. They have trouble leaving the battlefield behind with everything they’ve seen and done. They have trouble healing and moving on. They have trouble being happy and being alive. And yet they persist. They keep trying.

To swallow everything horrible and go on to live a happy life takes a kind of strength that does not come easy. Those who do it are often among the very best and most honorable examples of humanity. And even those who don’t have often given more for their people than their people can ever truly realize.

So, to all of you out there who have served so well and sacrificed so much, I offer my most sincere gratitude. Thank you for protecting everything and everyone which I hold dear. I may be only a civilian, but from the bottom of my heart, I salute you, and I wish you all the happiness in the world.

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