The Sacrifice of Our Veterans
We can admire those bicyclists who do endurance races, but the bravery of our veterans puts all that into sober perspective.
Most days my commute on the Hank Aaron State Trail takes me past Wood National Cemetery and the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee. Even on a typical day, it is impossible to pass by more than 38,000 headstones without taking a moment to think about the sacrifices our veterans have made. On Veterans Day, I took a moment to stop and pay my respects to my grandfather, who is buried there.
With national interests around the globe, and a world strewn with conflict, many of our nation’s sons and daughters in the armed forces find themselves in harm’s way in far off lands. We thank them all for their service and wish them a safe tour of duty.
As I stood over 50 acres of headstones, I thought about the meaning of real sacrifice in our modern world. I wonder if humans have an innate need for struggle, and those of us who have office jobs, weekends off and central heating look to sport to fill that need to overcome challenges. For most of history, work meant back-breaking labor in the field or in a factory. At the end of a day of labor, people were naturally exhausted. Today many of commute to work by bike to fit some exercise into our work day or go for a ride after we get home. “Weekend Warriors” even pay money to add suffering and risk to their lives at bike races.
Take for example the title of our recently published book about the USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals in Verona last January: Endure. Not to diminish the effort and strength required to endure the epic Wisconsin’s winter weather mother nature threw at the racers at the Nationals, but that suffering is a luxury we can afford treat ourselves to because our lives have gotten easier. You won’t find a big bike race series in most Third World countries.
Please don’t take offense if you are a fan of Survivor; hey, I take photographs and write about cycling for a living. But I think it is important to put struggle and sacrifice in perspective on Veterans Day.