Veteran's Day is tomorrow, so CBS This Morning featured an Iraq veteran in their segment, "Note to Self." Alex Horton write a letter to his 21-year-old self on the eve of war. His letter speaks to the hardships of war, the pain of losing his fellow soldiers, the strangeness of life after war. But his letter is also inspiring in the love for life and his fellow platoon members his experiences have given him.
Alex spent 15 months in Iraq. But he says it takes the rest of your life to come home. If you do nothing else to mark veterans day you should hear Alex's letter.
Alex remembers drinking a warm O'Doul's on his 21st birthday, just before his first military engagement. He was worried about war -- more worried about harming his fellow platoon members than about dying himself. So the first thing Alex wants to do is assure himself that his "training will kick in" and that he'll be able to rely on it.
But we know there are no promises in war. Alex wouldn't want his younger self to know which of his compatriots die -- just that he should "cherish every moment" they have together. I love that he wants to remember their laughter -- and their dreams. He feels obligated to live for the troops who died with him in battle.
What a tremendous burden -- but also a gift. Alex will never take life for granted again. "Enjoy the gift of life your fallen comrades have given you," he says. "See what life looks like without a rifle in your hands."
For life to be so heavy, all the time. To be so sensitized to every sensation around you. To have such a strong bond with your brothers -- stronger even than love. It's like combat has made life so much bigger or Alex, bigger than most of us will ever know.
I was glad to hear him say this: "You don't know it yet, but someday you're going to be looking for peace. And you're going to find it." Not ever veteran finds that peace in life. But it's what we wish for all of them.
How are you remembering Veterans Day this year?
Image via CBS News