The meaning of sacrifice
Imagine this Veterans Day that you are the 12-year-old daughter of a member of the U.S. military.
Most kids play — so do you.
But the one thing you look forward to more than anything else is talking to your dad on Skype.
On any given day that he's supposed to call, he might get sent someplace dangerous to fight. And the times he misses the call drive you into a sadness you can't explain to anyone, not even your mom.
They are the times she might find you curled up with your cat, quiet and alone, not wanting to hang out with friends, go to the movies or even head to the football game.
Mom might ask if you want to talk, but you're pretty careful not to add stress to her life. You smile and tell her you just feel like a quiet, restful day. She's already got to worry about groceries, Dad, your brother, Grandma (who frets about her son), fixing the back window and taking care of the bills.
Your teacher at school is nice because she asks about Dad. But you're super-careful not to do anything to cause her to give you bad grades. You don't want to cause Mom — or Dad (wherever he is right now) — extra stress.
What you don't know, and kind of don't want to know, is that, on this day, Dad might face a gun battle with the Taliban or Al Qaida or some other faction yet to be identified.
He sees things no human should ever see. Friends he ate breakfast with this morning are dead now. And their blood has become part of his uniform.
The blast that struck closest to him, from a rocket-propelled grenade, made a concussive sound that drowned out the entire world for a moment in time and then screams of rage, panic and pain came crashing back into his ears.
These are things he might never describe in detail for you, sweet little girl.
Because he loves you and does not want you to know what your Dad has seen and done to stay alive, fighting for the man on his right and the woman on his left.
If he makes it home, civilians will call him "veteran."
But they will not understand what sacrifice really means.