I’ve lived in the United States for a good while, and most days I don’t even think twice about the circumstances of my residency; this is my home, my family is here, and I love it. The renewal process for residency is, however, a poignant reminder of what it means to exercise and enjoy the freedoms afforded anyone living in the U.S. I respect deeply the privilege extended to me by this country, and the protections afforded me by its representatives.
I should disclose to you forthwith that I know nothing of military service. I was born in Cologne, Germany, well after the end of WWII, and grew up during an era of relative peace an ocean and half a continent away from U.S. soil. Issues of national security rarely informed my habits and I never felt any calling to enlist with Germany’s armed forces. As I reached my early maturity, even the Cold War was clearly ending, and America beamed its forgiving beacon of opportunity.
By the time the Berlin Wall came down and Germany began its process of reunification, I arrived in the United States, where my sister was already established with a business, a family, a comfortable routine….an American life, as it were. My extended stay – among the first in a lifetime of travels for various reasons – was further prolonged when I met the man I would subsequently marry. And so I began the process of establishing my own American life as a post-modern German native in the pre-digital land of seemingly limitless possibilities.
Perhaps my personal history is irrelevant to most readers in the context of an American national observance. And yet, in many ways, my multinational experience is a thoroughly American story….and an homage to the collective gesture of myriad veterans who paved the way for my peaceful, productive, expatriate life. People from all over the world still look to the United States as inspiration and a haven for freedom, protection, individual rights and a place for better opportunities in education, wage-earning, the availability of goods and services and civil and political liberties. It is for these things, in my humble opinion, that we honor American veterans wherever they serve.
We are all veterans of something. Marriages collapse, family deaths occur, people are uprooted by circumstance or natural disaster, losses of jobs or fortune or faith mark us, and inform our experience. Daily living can seem like a war at times. But civilian struggle is arrested and brought to full attention when a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a loved one is called to serve in harm’s way, called to serve far from home.
And so I want to express my deep respect and gratitude for any man or woman who would agree to serve, at potential personal risk, the country that I have chosen to make my home. I am not a veteran of any military engagement, nor do I want to suggest I can understand what that commitment truly entails; but I certainly comprehend the benefits I reap. Especially as we approach this venerable observance.
I thank you for your compatriot hospitality, and I wish you all the best on Veterans’ Day.
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A young country by world standards, America is rich with its own sense of tradition, patriotism and art. It remains a land of opportunity and charm not to mention skilled craftspeople and artisans! From Art Deco to patriotic textiles Americana is synonymous with pride and welcome.
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