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Tomb of the Unknown Holiday

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen
COLUMNIST

Congratulations, you have survived to the next national holiday! “Matrix: Revolutions,” infinite sleep, and a weekend of decent weather await you.

Wait. Something’s missing. Why do we have this time off? No, we are not celebrating a holiday called, “The Four-Day Weekend.”

While it is easy to fall into the MIT trap in which alumni names on buildings and class titles are mysteriously converted into numbers, our weekend deserves a real name. And this one does: “Veteran’s Day.”

Unfortunately, it is associated more with Filene’s Veteran’s Day Sale than soldiers. This must change.

Think 138 today. One-hundred thirty-eight is not the number of soldiers who died in the war in Iraq. The war ended May 1, 2003. One-hundred thirty-eight is the number of post-war casualties that face us today. That’s even more than the 115 who died during war.

How unglamorous.

To make the cover of Time, you have to be a beautiful wartime heroine like Jessica Lynch. To be featured in Newsweek, you must be the first soldier to die in war. Yet, these few scenarios form our image of who a veteran is.

Book deals, fame, and photo ops with the President are not what a soldier needs. It is your remembrance that will give help the most.

It was like he had just won the lottery. Just three weeks ago, 19-year-old Paul Bueche won a coveted ticket for a two-week trip back home from Iraq.

Despite being in the Middle East for six months, Paul did not take his prize. Instead, he gave it to an older soldier who had kids back home.

Two weeks ago, in a cruel twist of fate, Paul was killed when a helicopter tire exploded during his attempts to fix it.

Paul Bueche’s spirit embodies the meaning of Veteran’s Day. Selflessly, he bore our pain.

At MIT, our definition of pain is four tests and two psets due in the same week. It is nearly impossible to feel the force of the 130,000 troops in Iraq fighting for us, let alone the actual post-war turmoil there.

Veteran’s Day is not about President Bush’s photo op with yet another wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Veteran’s Day serves to remind us of soldiers who put their lives on the line for the sole purpose of our benefit.

In the most recent conflict, 1,400 GIs have been wounded in the legs, 800 in the arms, and the 200 in the spine. It could have been us.

We all could have been a bit more unlucky. You could have been forced into a draft or live a life in fear as a wartime civilian, but we are not because the troops time and again have served for us.

The least we could do to pay them in return is with our remembrance.