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How do you commemorate Veterans Day?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on November 11, 2006

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Photo of Kristin Colahan-Sederstrom

“We take flowers to my grandmother’s grave in western Kansas, because her children, our uncles and aunts, all served in the military.”

Photo of Thai Le

“I call my father, who was in Vietnam. He’s the only vet in my family.”

Photo of Becky Gilliland

“We put our flag out, but we don’t visit any graves. All the vets in our family are still alive.”

Photo of Keith Smith

“We fly the flag at home and at the office.”


Pywacket 7 years, 5 months ago

I respect your opinion and the reasons you offer for feeling that way. Your courtesy makes the difference between your and November Sky's comments.

Whether the often misleading recruiters (who, speaking of romanticizing, have been known to shamelessly romanticize Army life and benefits while glossing over risks) seek or care about parents' approval, those parents do have a great deal of influence over many (not all, of course) young folk.

And perhaps my choice of words was poor-- instead of "offering up," how about "sacrificing--often against their will"? Their loss--whether the ultimate or a lesser one--is as real, whether they encouraged their child to go or begged him to stay. (In much the same way, a veteran himself deserves our thanks and regard, whether he volunteered or was drafted and went resentfully and spitefully. As long as he fulfilled his duty, that distinction ceases to matter.)

But whether their children initially join with or without their approval, in times of draft or free choice, I still feel that the mothers (and fathers, for that matter) do enough on the home front and give enough, that I could not find it in my heart to fault a family for honoring their departed grandmother with a visit to her grave on Veteran's day.

We're not talking about the day becoming an excuse for Halllmark and FTD to run amok, or widespread instances of restaurants offering free meals for military moms on that day.. I've seen nothing of the kind happening. If that were the case, I would heartily agree that the day was being watered down.

Perspective and focus are needed. We're just looking at how a family, among themselves, chooses to honor the day and to remember their family's contributions to war and peace. They choose to focus on their matriarch. Again--with so many people who treat the day just like any other, I find it hard to criticize Kristin and her family for acknowledging it, even if their tradition is a little different from those of most.


from_beautiful_downtown_topeka 7 years, 5 months ago


I see your point....except for one thing.

You kind of "romanticize" the extent of which men and women join the service (during war time or not). Particularly that part about "offering them up".

As if that mother had any choice, Pywacket?

I have to believe that throughout the years millions of young men and women have joined the service...whether their moms and dad, as you put it, "offered them up" or not!--And that includes those years during the draft.---In those days (the draft) Uncle Sam came calling....the young man went in....and all dear old mom could do was give "Junior" a kiss on the cheek before he hopped on the bus or train. Whether mom was "willing to let Junior go into the service was not part of the equation (as far as Uncle Sam was concerned...and, frankly, nor should it be.)

Again, this is a day to remember the Vet.

Anything else is indeed "watering down" the true spirit of the day.


Pywacket 7 years, 5 months ago

beautiful downtown...~ Well said. I can see NS's point, too, in a way, but I find it hard to agree with it--much less to condone his/her resentful comments toward someone who is (in WHATEVER way) honoring the spirit of day rather than ignoring it as (sadly) the majority probably do.

I would hazard a guess that Kristin and her family honored her grandmother on Mother's Day when the grandmother was living and could enjoy their attentions.

Now that she has passed on, I just can't see that it will "water down" Armistice Day (or Veteran's Day) to lay flowers at the grave of a woman who did her part by offering up her precious children to be used as her country saw fit. I don't think such a gesture takes anything away from the many ways in which people are thanking the living vets and remembering the fallen ones on this day.

Personally, I wish the day had remained "Armistice Day," and was marked by honoring vets but also by reflecting on the effects of war, the meaning and responsibilities of peacetime, and the contributions of EVERYONE in a society that has experienced the ravages of such conflict.

In reality, no one emerges untouched--neither the people in uniforms, their parents, their spouses, the children who may grow up with an aching void in their lives, the civilian workers whose efforts are redirected or ramped up... no one is the same as they were before a war touched their country.


from_beautiful_downtown_topeka 7 years, 5 months ago


I think November Sky might need some anger mangagement. However, I kind of see his/her point (in a way).

Isn't Mother's Day a day to honor moms for all they do and have done and have sacrificed?

I think Veterans Day is a day to honor all that veterans have done and the sacrafices they've done/given.

So....I kind of see Sky's point. If you start adding other people into the mix you sort of water down the true meaning of Veterans Day.

Now November, go take a deep breath! I understand your point, but still, you take a deep breath anyway! LOL!


couranna1 7 years, 5 months ago

to be a soldier is an honorable profession and a necessary one and I do thank all them and also thank the gods they came home alive as that should always be the goal or better yet have peace in the world


sunflower_sue 7 years, 5 months ago

War became "real" to me when I first walked down the hall of my highschool and saw the plaques with all the names of the students who died serving our country. They were babies...just like I was at the time. It was the first time I had ever really put any thought to something that would surely never happen in my lifetime. I was just so convinced that the people of "today" knew better than those of "yesterday." Yes, at fourteen, I was convinced!

My mother remembers when, in her very small town that she grew up in, they would all experience the gut wrenching feeling of seeing the two men in the military dress uniforms come into town. They all knew that there was only one reason they would bring the news of the dead. Mom had 2 brothers in WW2. Thankfully, they both came back alive, if not damaged.

The hubby saw a vet (he was in fatigues) in the gas station this morning as he was buying some pre-dawn coffee. He went over and thanked the man and shook his hand. Then he offered to buy the vets coffee but the gas station attendant said it was on the house. Sometimes, that's enough. Shake a hand and say "Thank you."


Pywacket 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm sure November Sky means well, but when you stop to think of it (instead of just cranking out an impulsive criticism), it may indeed be fitting on Veteran's Day (which evolved from Armistice Day) to honor the mothers of veterans.

How much do they sacrifice in their country's interests, especially those whose children come back in a body bag?! In keeping the home fires burning by providing support and love across the miles to her soldier children, Kristin's grandmother (like other war mothers) was doing her part to support the troops.

And, really, how can this gesture of respect by Kristin seem irritating, since it is an occasion for Kristin to think of what it means to a family to have loved ones overseas and in the line of danger? Isn't this what we need to do: never forget? What harm is there in a bunch of carnations at the grave of a military mother? Must this really be a point of contention?

My dad was in an undeclared "conflict" (Korea), that many, including me, consider, like the present "conflict," fruitless and ill-conceived, and though the leaders who sent him and his comrades into danger may not deserve history's accolades, the conduct of those young, trusting, patriotic enlistees was and remains worthy of our thanks and respect. Thus it has ever been and ever will be. Thanks, Dad.

I generally reread some of the still-relevant poetry that emerged from The Great War (which, of course, did not "end all wars"). The most famous of the WWI poems, of course, is Owens' "Dulce et Decorum Est," and it still packs a punch that can bring a lump to your throat. Here's a link that provides that and several other relevant poems:

And here is one you will probably recognize, from John McCrae, who died in 1918. His war poetry was published posthumously. So much wasted potential.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields. ~~John McCrae


november_sky 7 years, 5 months ago

Correction...she said her grandmother....but, you know what? point is still valid.

Now go take a hike!...And take your snarky word with you, you jerk!


pmc3697 7 years, 5 months ago

November_sky, Kristin doesn't say anything about her Mom, and there is nothing wrong with honoring those who raised people who were willing to serve and die for our freedoms.

No need to be snarky to someone who shows respect to veterans and those who raised them.


ms_canada 7 years, 5 months ago

So, am I getting the picture right here. You have two days to commemorate the military? Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. When is Memorial Day? We just have this one day, Remembrance Day. I just watched the very moving ceremony from our National Cenotaph (monument) in our capital of Ottawa. It was quite beautiful with many prayers by different churches and one synogogue rabbi also. Many people laid wreaths on the cenotaph including other countries. I noticed one from the Republic of Korea.
There was a fly past and a 21 gun salute. Many nice songs played, a large children's choir and bagpipes. I love to hear the bagpipes. All government officials were there to lay wreaths. I thought it was beautiful and quite appropriate that we do this. Perhaps you have something like this on Memorial Day.


jamesfstover 7 years, 5 months ago

Can our honoring of veterans include resolve to prevent misuse of our military in ways that betray those veterans' service and sacrifice?


goatdog 7 years, 5 months ago

I donate money to their victims.


november_sky 7 years, 5 months ago

libraffe, good point! I think I know what you're trying to say.

Also, I'm sure Kristin (pictured above) means well.....but I have to say.....Kristin, as well-intentioned as your gesture is (to your dearly departed mom).....I still nevertheless find it a little peculiar because today is a day to remember Veterans.....not Veteran's moms!

Maybe someday dow the road congress will pass a new federal holiday called "Mother's of Veterans Day".


libraffe 7 years, 5 months ago

Interesting that on election day the question was, did you vote? And the pictured respondents said, no, didn't have time.... But all of these respondents have clear plans for how-to celebrate Veteran's Day. Not sure what my point is, but it seems odd.


Irish_Prince 7 years, 5 months ago

It's all very fine and good to visit grave sites (of Veterans) on Veteran's Day.

But just for the record (and for what it's worth)....

Memorial Day is truly the appropriate day to pay your respects to deceased veterans of foriegn wars.

Veteran's Day is the appropriate day to say "thanks" to the LIVING veteran's for their military service to their/our country.


ms_canada 7 years, 5 months ago

Redbird - yes, very well said and I am sure felt by many. Here is my country we call this day Remembrance Day. It is a day to remember those who gave their lives for the freedom of us all and especially those in countries whose citizens did not experience freedom as we do. We wear poppies and there are parades of soldiers, veterans and others. These parades will culminate at the cenotaphs in their area where a prayer service and vigil will be held. I just read yesterday that there are about 6000 cenotaphs in Canada. I think that you in the US may call these War Memorials. In my family there are no soldiers to remember as having given their lives for freedom, but that does not stop me from being grateful and remembering others. May God bless you all this day.


mr_daniels 7 years, 5 months ago

Redbird well said and appreciated.


Kuku_Kansas 7 years, 5 months ago

You mean people do more than just go shopping at those HUGE SALES EVENTS???????



redbird 7 years, 5 months ago

I fly our flag and when possible visit my family veterans....but the start of Veteran's Day I always will start with a prayer for our troops and for those who died serving their country,this is a tradition that my Dad passed down to his children.My family is full of Veterans recorded for centuries and my family as a whole gives a prayer for those missing in action,especially for the one that is our family.May he be safe or at least lie in peace!! I know not all will agree with war and serving their country but remember if not for our commitment to democracy,through battles on our and foreign soils...we would not have this right of freedom.Freedom of expression, freedom of speech.....Of course by human nature we would but we would be imprisoned or even worse put to death,if it wasn't for those who are and have fought for our freedom. Look into the eyes of a loyal true veteran,listen to his words and stories therein will be the story of our freedom.....Thank you and God bless will always be there from me for their service to our country!!!!


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