Veterans hold a special and honored place in our society – and in most other societies. In our wars, regardless of their moral rightfulness or justification, these men and women have laid down their lives for the hallowed promise that the sacred homeland knows not the miasma of war and death. It is a tradition here at Saint Xavier to honor our veteran students with not just a moment of silence but by sitting down and listening to their stories. It is always a tragic day when the last veteran of a war passes away for with them goes any lasting insight into our past, for a people that forgets their history are lost and wayward. These men and women are remembered by the student body and the school itself as exemplars of those that strive for and commit one’s life to the endeavour of compassion and service. The aforementioned virtues are two of our core values of which this University holds its students responsible for. This vigor, the desire to serve with compassion is what defines and dictates what and how we conduct ourselves.
I come from a family with a long martial history with veterans on both sides of my family. There is a long irony in my family in relation to my own homeland, the United States. There is a strange back-and-forth service with and against the United States in my family. My paternal great-grandfather served in the Japanese navy as a fleet captain during the World War I on the side of the Entente, including the U.S. My paternal grandfather served in the Japanese army from 1937-1945 rising to the rank of major before his surrender at the conclusion of the Battle of Okinawa. On my mother’s side, my maternal grandfather fought against the French in Vietnam. Later during the Vietnam War, my father would serve as an Vietnamese interpreter and military police officer allied with the United States being the first of our family to step foot in the United States. And currently, many of my cousins and in-laws have served in the military of Vietnam. In my family, there is a sacred obligation passed down our family line to defend one’s homeland. Perhaps one day I will have to fulfill that most sacred of obligations. But I hope that such a fate doesn’t befall this country to bring about that obligation’s fulfillment. And perhaps it is this history of my family that has me hold a reverence for Veterans Day.
Like I said, the true tragedy of time is the losing of individual history. My father told me enough stories to fill 10 books which I shall pass on. My grandfather had a journal giving insight into the other side of the World War II, rarely if ever explored. He would constantly reiterate to his men as they fought for their country on the battlefields of the Pacific against the Americans certain values he held. In his last speech to his men before their surrender, he said, “We are human as much as they. We are a part of something grander than ourselves. We are loyal soldiers. But we are not unthinking fodder. We are men. They trust us to make the right decisions. And this is my decision.”
These values he held of compassion for his men that he would brand himself a coward in the eyes of his society to save the lives of his men are what every veteran that has served their country with honor holds, not just in the U.S. but every nation, love for one’s countryman. It is something that we’d be fools to forsake. It should not be the case that so many of our fellow citizens cast aside that value in the face of this uncertainty. In the fires of recent events in our country’s history, people have forgotten about what really matters – compassion and understanding. In these days in which division and rhetoric are used to hurt and lessen people, we need to come together and put our words into actions. If one dislikes the rhetoric of someone, instead of trying to snuff out their opinions and their right to speak, one should fulfill their own principles. In honor of those that served, we should not attempt to stifle the rights and liberties that so many before have given their lives in the defense of. So beyond a simple moment of silence, take the time to thank a veteran for their service. It doesn’t take much to give a little courtesy to those that chose to fight for us. It is more than just a moment of silence.