It’s safe to say we, as a nation, are engaged in two wars we will not win and which are draining our treasure and our youth. Billions already spent will be followed by billions more we haven’t got but which we must find to keep faith with the injured and the scarred.

I can find only one good thing to come from our current miserable, protracted, neo-con-sponsored tragedy. Just one. And that’s the resurgence in this country of honoring veterans … veterans of all wars. The last couple of years have seen more parades, more stories, more media attention paid to those who put on the various uniforms and took their turns defending America.

My turn was nine years of active service. No one ever took a shot at me. Except a fella from Chicago. And he was dumb; not angry. We were firing in the prone position on the range at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. His M-1 jammed. So he got up, turned around to get help and put a shot over the heads of the rest of us lying on the ground. We had a little “blanket reception” for him that night in the barracks. “Lesson in gun safety” we called it.

Veteran’s Day used to be a big deal. Draftee or volunteer: we honored them all. Because we won every time.

Then came Korea. The world recorded it as a draw; not a loss. But in the hearts and minds of all Korean vets … combat or not … it didn’t end the way it should have because the political clout to win wasn’t there. Nor, it seemed, the national will. So, those who were left came home.

Honoring veterans who had simply fought for a tie didn’t seem the same as honoring those who crushed an enemy. So, aside from some VFW and American Legion posts, Veterans Day came to mean little more than a day off for bankers and government workers.

Then Viet Nam. This nation stepped into the Southeast Asian quicksand because of bad political decisions and a lot of political and some military leadership deceit. Ultimately, a lack of national will to throw our full weight into a “little war” in some far off place where “we probably would have lost anyway” meant there was no victory. In fact, the long view of our history will likely record it as a loss. Americans who were there … Americans who fought the fight and endured the unendurable … those Americans won’t ever see it that way.

Another war where we were and shouldn’t have been. And when that political realization finally hit home after all the killing and loss of national treasure, pride and thousands of lives, someone blew the whistle and it ended. Again, those who were left came home.

And, again, the acknowledgment of veterans with a special day was pushed further down into the depth of our national consciousness and left largely to those who served to remember each other and the sacrifices that had been made.

Now we’re sending our young people and our megabillions of dollars to other places we shouldn’t be in a futile attempt to change conditions that have existed for thousands of years. Conditions that defeated every other nation that tried to intervene for whatever purpose. We won’t change things there, either. We will eventually come home without victory.

So maybe the only positive thing to come out of this terrible cost of lives and treasure is the resurgence of American recognition of what it means to be a veteran. A veteran of any war. Technology and some damned fine reporting by a few gutsy journalists who took cameras, cell phones and laptop computers into the line of fire in this one have given us non-combatants and non-participants a new realization of what it’s really like in battle under conditions none of us would care to experience.

So, Veteran’s Day seems to be making a comeback for the old and providing a new experience for the young. I’m seeing fewer Veteran’s Day sales and more Veteran’s Day flags. And parades. Little ones. Big ones. But more of ‘em.

All that is good. All of that is as it should be. But if you want to really get the meaning … if you really want to know what Veteran’s Day is supposed to be about … go talk to a veteran. Any veteran. Anywhere.

If you’re in a hurry, just shake a hand and say “Thank you.” If you’ve got some time, ask some questions about experiences, comrades and memories. That veteran will never stop you to tell you any of this. But if you ask, you’ll be the richer for what you learn.

And the veteran will be grateful for the chance to share and to have a new feeling that one more American has some idea of what it means to have borne the fight.

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