Veteran’s Day 2010

I need to talk to my brothers and sisters in arms–those who have served, who are serving, and who will yet serve–for a second. I don’t mind if the rest of you listen in, but this post is addressed to them.

Sometime in your life, you did or will swear an oath that changed your life forever. Whether you did it because your nation drafted you or because you volunteered, you set out on an epic quest. It might have just lasted a couple of years, or it might have lasted decades, but that quest affected you in profound ways, some bad, some good, but all in a way no one who has not undertaken that quest can conceive.

For most of us who find ourselves numbered among those called veterans, the time for our quest has come and passed. We served. We did our duty. Now, we have moved on to whatever came next.

Now, brothers and sisters, we have all entered into a time that no civilization, no nation, no person ever wants to enter. We have entered into a time where the potential for hardship, chaos, and disaster is greater than it has been for centuries. Far too many people try to ignore this time, but we cannot. We have survived the quest, and that quest gave us vision so many others lack.

I don’t know about you, but I find no expiration date on that oath I swore, and while I have left behind the uniform that marked its beginning, I have discovered that the quest has not ended. Brothers and sisters, I suspect that you have found something similar as well.

So, now, I ask all of you to consider something: what does this next chapter in our quests, that began with that oath, that time of transformation, and all that followed it, look like? It is probably hard for any of us to say for certain, but I will suggest something.

In the twilight years of the Roman Empire, Rome was beset by enemies on every side, and so it withdrew its legions in what proved to be a vain attempt to defend itself. What that withdrawal left behind was millions of citizens and freemen, now deprived of the defense that allowed the civilized society they had come to expect and depend on to exist. These citizens and freemen were not without resources, however, and they turned to the one group of people they still believed they could depend on.

Scattered throughout the empire were retired legionnaires and their families, men who had settled on the landholds promised to them by the empire in return for faithful service. These retired legionnaires retained the knowledge earned through decades of campaigning and often the hardware a campaigner needed as well. It was to these men, and sometimes their sons and grandsons, that the citizens and freemen turned, asking for aid, for guidance, for defense as darkness descended upon the empire.

Most of us learned in history classes that the time that followed was called the Dark Ages, but I suggest another name: the Candlelight Age. It was in the conclaves that grew up under the protection of those retired legionnaires and their descendants that the flame of civilized society survived, to burst forth once again in the Renaissance and the eras that followed.

Brothers and sisters, there are far too many parallels between that dark era and our own, and I want you to think about this: has your quest ended, or has it just begun? I am not asking for an answer, so much as I want you to think. Consider your oath. Consider your quest. Consider now. Then ask yourself what comes next.

Thank you for your service, my brothers and sisters, and thank you for hearing me out.


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