Veterans Day’s Deeper Meaning
by Timothy Hornik
Newly elected BVA National President Mark Cornell, third from left, presented a wreath from the Blinded Veterans Association at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. He was accompanied by, left to right, Honorary Board Member Dr. Donald Gagliano, Executive Director Al Avina, Director of Government Relations Dr. Tom Zampieri, Director of District 3 Pete Davis, and Field Service Program Director Ed Eckroth. The wreath laying followed Mark’s participation in a White House breakfast and a ceremony the Cemetery Amphitheatre featuring remarks by Congressional Medal of Honor Society National President Harold Fritz, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and President Barack Obama.
November 11 is more than a Federal Holiday or a chance to enjoy sales at various stores. The day is rather an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to selflessly serve our fellow man. Starting on November 11, 1918 we celebrated the end of the First World War, remembered the sacrifices of all those who took up the calling to bear arms in defense of our freedom, and laid to rest the remains of a Soldier atop a hill in Virginia overlooking the Potomac River and whose name in a place of high honor only the Almighty knows.
Beginning in 1954, President Eisenhower established this day, November 11, as the federal holiday we know today. On this day each year, we remember those who serve through community events and parades. We take the time to enjoy the company of friends and family. Most importantly, we remember those who died during their service through the laying of wreaths and flowers upon their resting places.
To me, this day possesses a much deeper meaning. Not until the day before I turned 25 did I begin to understand what it means to be a veteran who freely chooses to sacrifice himself or herself in defense of our freedoms.
On November 11, 2004, fate intervened in my life. While on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, a sniper placed his enemy fire within millimeters of ending my life. Entering through the right temple and out the left, the bullet caused me to fall. I soon knew that I would never see the world the same again.
However life changing the event has been to me, what should have destroyed my future has allowed me to transcend blindness, equipped with a stronger sense of self. My freedom of choices laid a road to continue to serve my fellow veterans through various organizations.
From that day forward, Veterans Day has reinforced the strength of my belief that freedom is not free. The call to voluntarily join the Armed Forces is not one that any citizen or every citizen can necessarily answer. It is instead a calling for those who deeply believe internally that they possess the psychological and physical fortitude to withstand the inherent dangers that are so much a part of such service. For those who were drafted, it was a time for them to understand that they were about to face fierce struggles. They acknowledged that although powerless in the choice to serve at that time, they could indeed decide to trust in their Brothers in Arms during the bleakest moments.
Veterans Day is a day to celebrate what it means to be free to choose how to live. We freely speak our minds, select the object of our faith, and pursue the dreams we have that our lives will be rich and beautiful.
Winston Churchill stated: “We make a living by what we get but we create a life by what we give.” In this season let us honor those who gave some, or perhaps all.
About the Author:
Timothy Hornik is a Licensed Social Worker, advocating for equality and rights for disabled veterans. His primary focus is directed to his role as the president of the Blinded Veterans Association’s Kansas Regional Group.