Most Americans go about their lives on a day-to-day basis never truly understanding the sacrifice the men and women of the armed forces take in assuring the American people the freedoms that we so greatly enjoy. It isn’t that we necessarily take these sacrifices for granted (though, sometimes that is the case), it’s simply that we just do not fully comprehend what is at stake when these men and women put themselves in the line of danger.
We can argue all day the reasons as to why they are put in this position in the first place: a government that is seemingly a war-machine hell-bent on bringing “democracy” to the rest of the world, the never-ending battle for control of oil, the war on terror, for the ability to consume more than we produce, or just the general greed of those that are in control of our country.
Whatever the reason, this is not what Veterans Day is about. Today is about the men and women that sacrifice—and have sacrificed—their lives on a daily basis both here and abroad to ensure that you and I can go on enjoying our lives the way we want to. Today is about those that served the United States during peace and conflict alike. Today is simply about them, not about those putting these selfless people in such dire predicaments. We can save the other 364 days of the year to criticize the decision made by those “in charge.” But today, let’s just say thank you and keep those that have and are still fighting for our freedoms in our thoughts.
Below, read a thoughtful Veterans Day letter from Jason Hann of The String Cheese Incident, who is a former member of the United States Navy. Here at Live For Live Music, we would just like to say to Jason—and the rest of those that have and continue to serve—that we greatly appreciate and respect your sacrifice and service to our country.
Happy Veterans Day. Not many people know but I served in the Navy from 1987-1991 as Interior Communications Second Class. I met so many incredible people during that time. I grew up fast, going in as a 17 year old boy, having immediate responsibility for the safety of my shipmates, and coming out 4 years later as a man ready to take on whatever life threw at me. Talk about a crash course in technical and life skills. Drank with Russian sailors in Japan as the Cold War ended. Had shouting matches with my superiors trying to keep my co-workers in safe working environments . Around the clock watches and emergency ship repairs at sea from the Engine Room to the mast, dangerously high above the deck during rough seas. Fighting fires that broke out on the ship. Tossed by Typhoons in the Pacific Ocean that took shipmates’ lives.
Organizing a ship’s band to play for “fun” days at sea. Watching an entire ocean “bubble” as far as you could see, as thousands of porpoise herd and play with their tuna prey near Ecuador. Serving under Captain John Pine (RIP), who came aboard and turned our ship from the worst to the best ship in the fleet – one of the finest people I may ever meet. Heard countless late night stories of the treatment and permanent physical and mental trauma of veterans serving in Vietnam. Kept in touch with others who have served in wars since. These veterans have seen unfathomable realities of human carnage, cruelty, and compassion from enemies and allies alike. Some can no longer sleep with their memories. Some can no longer relate to civilian life. These are the people who trust that the orders of Generals and our President keep our country safe. The political realities of their missions sometimes betray that trust. Please keep them in your thoughts today for their eventual safe journey home to their families and friends. The best way we can honor those that prepare and serve in war is to appreciate and strive more than ever towards peace and love.
In the midst of pandemic-induced lockdowns in 2020, Hann offered another Veterans Day message to fans and those who have served.
One of the things that I learned, serving on a ship, is that every day you’re learning something or doing something to keep your shipmates safe, both in port and at sea.
The potential for fires at sea, running into typhoons, 50 ft waves in (Adak) Alaska, refueling at sea, drills with battleships, helicopter landings on a moving deck, exposed electrical gear, moving mechanical gear in tight spaces, fixing essential gear outside in bad weather, the list is endless – and that’s all during a routine week during peace time.
You can’t make it out of there intact without being united and recognizing that you must look out for each other, daily, to get back to your family safely.
No matter what was going on, it was clear that you don’t make it without your brother or sister helping, guiding, protecting, teaching, and serving.
Thank you, Veterans!
IC2 Hann USS Downes FF1070
[A version of this article was originally published on 11/12/12]