Nov. 11, 1919 – the official date of the end of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this date as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, later changed to Veterans Day.
On this day we honor those who came before us, those who stand before us, and those who will come after us.
Today we are called heroes, but that was not always the case. I personally never thought of myself as a hero. I was just a guy who signed up with the U.S. Navy. After all, you’re at sea, what can happen?
Vietnam changed all that for me and all who served there. We served with honor. We matured – not by choice – but by the circumstances we were exposed to. Our skill sets changed as we advanced in rank. We learned responsibility regarding those who were under us.
If there is one thing I learned about myself, it was purpose. What did life have in store for me? How was I going to attack it? The military helped me understand my purpose.
As a New York City-kid, I survived on my own. In the service, you survived by taking care of others and they were the ones who watched you back. Other veterans can put words on paper and tell a better story about what it all means. I just wanted to serve and then come home in one piece.
Today, I am a member of The American Legion and I currently serve as Commander of Post 79 in Snoqualmie. We serve charities, families and veterans who require help. We even have social time together.
I look back to Dec, 12 ,1969, the day – I joined the Navy – and I see the building blocks that shaped my life, the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, the tears of mothers and fathers who buried their children, both here and on foreign soil. Our brave men and women who man the front lines to keep the enemy from our shores.
I hope we all honor our men and women this Nov. 11, but we should honor them everyday – for that is what they do everyday.
Michael Pollina is a commander of American Legion, Renton-Pickering Post 79 in Snoqualmie. He is also a U.S. Navy Veteran who fought in the Vietnam War.