This is an image of a funeral procession outside of a train from the first World War.

A Veteran’s Sacrifice

Nick Cain (Nov. 20, 2013) It’s funny how little we grasp outside of our day-to-day circle. Ideas may fly by all the time in passing, online or on the news, but not much sticks. We get enough of the material to comprehend what’s being said, if we’re interested enough to pay attention in the first place, before our mind is onto something else more vivid in our own world. We are passengers on a train. Trying to learn something about the tree we see through the glass window is impossible at 80 mph. Learning about another person in our car is much easier. I was the man on the train in my understanding of a veteran’s sacrifice before Remember Heroes.

Something struck me hard in the gut the day Mike told me of his idea for Remember Heroes. It had never occurred to me that distance was an issue for those with friends no longer living. Death hadn’t occurred to me as too real of an idea for that matter. Yet here was a man speaking of both. He was an anchor to a world I hadn’t seen, a tree in my train car. And he throttled me kicking a screaming with his branches.

I didn’t think of the men and women who were dying in another country for me to keep on living. I didn’t think of the comrade who had to carry on though danger. I didn’t think of the family who bid an abrupt farewell to their son or daughter. I didn’t think of the veteran who came home with scars, nightmares and painful memories of those who didn’t. I didn’t think of the Marine who couldn’t see his friends buried on the other side of the country.

Believe me, I don’t presume to understand what it’s like to serve, because I haven’t. But, I can say with confidence that through Remember Heroes I have a greater appreciation for the sacrifices of our fighting men and women, and I feel fortunate for it.

This appreciation, I didn’t even realize I’d acquired until recently. Through the course of my work, I came across an epitaph that brought tears to my eyes, for all the reasons mentioned above—a service member’s selflessness and my selfishness. It was a young man’s life summed up magnificently in four short words etched in grey stone: Son, Brother, Soldier, Hero.

(Photo by U.S. Archives)