Veterans Day 2019: Hope of New Beginnings
Call me a dreamer, a prognosticator, even a cockeyed optimist, but I’m thinking Veterans Day 2019 could actually signal the start of something good.
Whether the events of today were personal or universal in nature, I cannot say. However, the details, observations and emotions I’d encountered struck me in such an auspicious way that I was prompted to scribe this post.
Over the past few weeks as I’d consult my calendar, the November 11 date highlighting the words “Veterans Day” continued to impress me. “Veterans Day is coming up soon,” I thought.
It’s very odd it is for me to make mental note of a holiday. Friends and family know I rarely observe official dates, often forgetting even my own birthday.
Today’s early morning temperatures beckoned me to grab a cup of coffee and head out to the Safety Harbor pier overlooking Tampa Bay. I took a welcome seat beneath a gazebo before moving closer to a park bench where I could watch fishermen idle by in their pontoon boats, pelicans gather pleasantly atop markers, and gentle manatees emerge from the water as their giant black noses captured periodic breaths.
A number of people walked by, including several with their dogs, before a friendly local face appeared.
Rocket Lift Off
The elder man and I greeted each other by acquaintance.
“Do you know why the flags are flying at half mast today?” he asked me.
After hesitating, I suddenly remembered.
“I do. It’s November 11th, Veterans Day. Thanks for reminding me!”
The same man then queried, “Are you here to watch the rocket lift-off?”
“There’s a rocket lifting off today? From Cape Canaveral, on the opposite coast?”
“Yes,” he responded, “but you can see the rocket fly over Tampa Bay.”
Despite having watched the Apollo moon walk on TV in the summer of 1969, it had been ages since I’d given much thought to NASA, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral or rockets of any kind.
“What time does it launch?” I asked.
“In about 9 minutes,” he answered.
I jumped off my park bench and set out for the long pier over Tampa Bay. Sure enough, several onlookers were already poised with cameras and binoculars in hand.
We watched in unison as a light appeared in the morning sky about a minute after lift-off from a full 150 miles away. It looked like a red star and left a scribble of white above Tampa Bay’s morning sky.
Though unexpected today, the rocket lift-off made me think about broaching the edges of our current cosmos. I lifted up an inspiring thought: May barriers be broken today and frontiers we didn’t know existed somehow get crossed.
A Veterans Day Celebration
Soon after the rocket lift-off, I found myself seated with veterans, their families and other local citizens at our local Veterans Park. The sun was shining, the air still slightly crisp, but the solemnity of the event was palpable. Proud servicemen and women assembled and stood up to be acknowledged from the many wars of our era. Two veterans heralded from World War II.
We watched the Posting of the Colors, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and listened as a local VFW chaplain offered the invocation. A group of elementary school children were introduced and proudly sang the national anthem.
School Children and Patriotic Songs
The salute continued and young children sang again, this time a medley honoring the various branches of our armed services. Every song arose in familiarity. These were songs we all learned as school children and, as I recall, we always sang them with a sense of pride and honor.
“Over there, over there, send the word over there! . . . From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli. We will fight our country’s battles in the air on land and sea. . . Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high, into the sun . . . Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh! . . . Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail, and the caissons go rolling along . . .”
Prompted to capture a photo of the event, I reached into my handbag for my phone. When I looked its face, I saw more than the smiling image of myself. My phone was specifically marking a moment in time.
The numbers 11:11 flashed before my eyes, followed by today’s date: November 11. Three sets of 11’s, all indicating a start of something new, I smiled and quickly saved the image.
I would soon learn that today also marks an exact century — 100 years — from the original World War I Armistice, the date we now refer to as Veterans Day here in the United States.
Adding to the multitude of number 1’s, I remembered something else. The 1919 Armistice Day launched at 11:11 AM, the exact time my iPhone was currently reflecting. That’s a lot of 1’s, a lot of new starts, new beginnings.
I wondered if it were possible that time was coming full circle. Could it be that what first signaled a cessation of hostilities was being underscored more powerfully today, not just in global warfare, but in the hearts and lives of mankind?
A Prayer of Hope
While still contemplating the synergies of an 11:11 telephone time stamp, the 11th day of the eleventh month, and the centennial holiday implications, my private thoughts were interrupted.
Suddenly, familiar but very ancient words poured forth from the microphone and out into the late morning air. The man at the microphone was uttering a soldier’s prayer, repeating the words and promise of the prophet Isaiah.
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
A number in attendance seemed to nod their heads in agreement.
Yes. Call me an idealist, a dreamer, or even worse.
I'm believing, even trusting, that today is a harbinger of good things ahead.
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