When I was a child, my father would try on his uniform from his days serving in the Air Force during World War II. He could barely get his feet into the legs, and the shirt had no chance of being buttoned. We laughed as he tried to wear his uniform every year on Veteran’s Day.
Later in life, the Vietnam War and protests were part of my life; I never thought about him and his uniform. Some of my friends came back from Vietnam mentally and physically damaged from the War, and I did not understand why they gave up so much and why my father wore his uniform.
As I got older and faced decisions and opportunities, I discovered that one of the greatest gifts given to me was my heritage, which included my ethics and morals as a Jew and an appreciation for the importance of our democracy. The “why” became so clear—it is a battle of good over evil. It is a battle for our rights living in a democracy.
9/11 was a wake-up call for all of us. First responders gave their lives to save lives. Innocent people were killed because they represented liberty and freedom. We sent young people from our armed forces to fight for good over evil, all wearing the uniform of the United States of America. War is hell. There were stories highlighted by the news about the deaths of innocent people. All of us were concerned and cared for every innocent life lost, yet we supported our soldiers and their high morals as they fought for us, our democracy, and for good over evil.
From that time until today, whenever my children or I see soldiers in their uniforms, we turn and say, “Thank you for your service.” We all realize why they wear the uniforms of our nation—it is not just for them; it is for us. When getting on a plane today, even the highest-tiered frequent flyer must wait for active military personnel to board first. I feel disappointed when no military persons board because I look forward to thanking them for their service and for protecting our nation and way of life.
Many of my friends were called up for military service recently with the Israel Defense Forces. The only thing that fit them better than their uniforms was the perfect fit of their children in their arms, receiving their warm embrace.
Soon, these brave men and women would embark on the same fight my father and grandfather fought—the same fight after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 – the fight of good over evil, democracy over tyranny, and light over darkness.
My father used to tell me stories about antisemitism in the military, yet not with anger. He stood strong and tall, always with pride of being Jewish. It was part of his ethics and morals, which is why being Jewish is so special to me today.
This Veteran’s Day, I have a smile on my face thinking of my father trying to fit into his old uniform, yet I realize that the uniform doesn’t matter as much as the person wearing it. I now understand that because of what my father fought for, he always fit into that uniform, for his children, and the generations yet unborn. Thank you, Dad, and everyone for your service, this Veterans Day, and every day!