I am the only guy in the family lineage since the turn of the last century that didn't serve in the army. At the time that I was eligible, I fervently hoped I would not have the opportunity. Nixon had just initiated the 'Christmas bombing' of North Vietnam and my number was due to be drawn in the draft lottery a month later. Fortunately I got number 248 and they only went to 119 that year, the last year that anyone was drafted in the US. That was not a problem with my grandfather, dad, and youngest son; they all volunteered.
Grandpa Emil was in the MP's in WWI, today being the 90th anniversary of the end of that "war to end all wars". There is a great shot of him leaning on a building, somewhere in France, and the family legend is he is guarding an off limits whorehouse. My dad volunteered after Pearl Harbor and crewed in twin engine tactical bombers in the ETO, A-20's and A-26's. They bombed bridges, rail yards, and won the Presidential Unit Citation when they decimated the 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions at the Falaise Gap after D-Day. My youngest son volunteered because he was interested in the field of security management and also because he is a stubborn, bullheaded Norwegian, not unlike myself. He was in basic training when all the pagers carried by drill instructors went off at once on the morning of September 11, 2001. He landed in Kuwait the day the war began and served as a humvee gunner from Kuwait City to Basra, to Nasiryah, and eventually up to Baghdad. He is still in the army, now an officer, in an artillery battalion in New York.I'm sure there are many folks out there with a similar story. But unless you've been there, as Silbs points out in his excellent Veterans Day post, you can't begin to know what it was like and what was endured. So take a few minutes to think about that today, no matter what your politics are. In my opinion, whenever a country invades another one the invader is in the wrong. I'm a history major; I can't think of one exception to the rule. Conversely, I don't think floating little paper boats down the river on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing does a damn thing to advance world peace. I always think of the old man and the same comment every year at that event: "I'll bet the guys on the Arizona would get a real kick out of this shit". If it did nothing else, dropping the bomb short circuited the transfer of the 416th Bomb Group to the Pacific theater, thereby ensuring the existence of me and my two sons. But the bottom line is that war, any war, is a destructive and highly negative event. Just think about the people that were involved in, survived, and in many cases did not survive and tell em you appreciated their service.