My dad, Corporal Edward A. Clermont, volunteered for the Marines when he was 17. He was one of the poor guys hitting the beaches on those deadly landing crafts during WWII, Pacific Theater. Of his unit of some 300, he was one of two who survived. Once he said he was walking with two other guys when a shell landed, turning his two friends to ashes in front of his eyes. To his dying day, he jumped at sudden sounds as if they were life-threatening … a balloon pop, a spilled glass of milk, a slammed door. In a way, he never left the front lines. He died there.
I am remembering him today, and his compatriots, many of whom never reached adulthood. Each would use different words to explain reasons for the greatest of all sacrifices, but all I think all would mention freedom. And yes, today we will salute Veterans with flags and guns and songs, fittingly. But what about tomorrow? Will Veterans Day be like Christmas; one day we tear up at the birth of a guy who taught love of neighbor and the next day cut someone off in traffic while avoiding eye contact?
Democracy demands eternal vigilance, and Dad met that challenge. A patriot in the true sense of the word, he never missed an election; not only did he vote, but usually stood outside the polls, sometimes in pouring rain, to campaign for a candidate. I also remember during the McCarthy trials his pounding his fist on an old green chair, and dialing up our congressperson to just “Stop it.”
We best honor our veterans by my Dad’s kind of active participation in the government of the governed, which is what freedom is. Active means not only volunteering for service, but also paying taxes rather than thinking of clever ways to avoid them (veterans benefit money does NOT come from private donations), participating in elections, and most importantly, voting. I don’t care if you agree with me or not. I’m a Bernie girl, but to Trump supporters everywhere, I promise the respect due to fellow citizens who care enough to do something about it. To all candidates of all parties, thank you for your willingness to serve.
To fellow citizens, just get out there please. Argue without calling names. Find the facts. Debate the issues as if the young people who sacrificed their lives for your right to debate were listening to you. And finally and most importantly, take a few minutes — just a few minutes — out of your day to go to the polls. The enemy is not the foreigner or the opposing viewpoint; it is the lazy unthinking cynical nonvoting American.