Today is a date that none of us will ever see again in our lifetimes. (While that could be said of every day, really, nonetheless…) It is November 11, 2011, or, in other words, 11/11/11.
[The first time I saw the numbers "11:11" on a digital clock, I was about nine years old, up later than I should have been because of problems with my asthma, which was always worse at night when I was younger. I thought something was wrong with the clock, and honestly feared, for that minute, that perhaps the world might be ending...So, you can say that I have a rather visceral reaction at that many elevens in a row to this day...!?!]
The time of 11:11 AM will be arriving shortly, and at many places around the English-speaking world, moments of silence will be held in honor of veterans, as well as for those killed in combat.
You may be asking why I am writing about this, but there are several reasons. Firstly and most importantly, I think it is the responsibility of every citizen to pay due respect to those who have dedicated part of their lives–whether as a long-term career or as a commitment of a number of years–to the military and thus to the safety and security of all the citizens of their country. This is a true sacrificium, a “making holy,” of their efforts on the part of others; and it is often a sacrifice quite literally (in the modern sense) because death is a possibility at every moment. Because of the sacrifices of volunteer servicemembers in this regard, the non-servicemember population does not have to make such sacrifices…and for this, we should be immensely and immeasurably grateful.
Secondly, because there are veterans in the Ekklesía Antínoou, and the family-members of veterans (including myself in the latter category); and, very possibly in the future, there will be current servicemembers in the Ekklesía Antínoou, now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been lifted. And while gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may be a minority in the military, and likewise with pagans and polytheists, nonetheless it may come about one day that members of the Ekklesía Antínoou will have the opportunity to serve and support the military population in our country (and other countries), and to work with them and have them amongst our numbers in rituals, events, and devotions throughout the year. The veterans that I know of in the Ekklesía Antínoou at present have contributed beyond the measure of most members, and I am thankful to one in particular–Erynn Rowan Laurie–for all that she has done for us and the many ways she has enhanced the experience of people within our group, and for all the work she has done on behalf of veterans and of visibility for military personnel in paganism. Thank you very much indeed for that, Erynn!
Thirdly–and perhaps least importantly, but nonetheless, it should be said–is that Hadrian was a military man, and the Roman tradition of treatment of its veterans (indeed, our term comes from the Latin veteranus, which meant exactly what it does for us as it did for them) was, by our standards, quite excellent. The cities of Antinoópolis and Aelia Capitolina, under Hadrian’s administration, were settled by a great many veterans, and veterans were given particular favor in many cases due to their service and devotio to the Roman state. No matter how awful we may view Roman imperialism and conquest, there were real people in the army, doing what they could to have a better life back then, and to gain their citizenship or to avoid slavery…And, to be honest, not much has changed in the world.
I would like to give you the text of a military diploma issued during Hadrian’s principate, which can be precisely dated to July 17, 122, from the region of Pannonia Superior, given to a sesquiplicario, literally, “one who receives one-and-a-half rations,” a rank of soldier somewhat equivalent to a modern non-commissioned officer, and translated in the text below as “senior infantryman.” The translation is by Anthony Birley, with supplements added by myself from the original text.
The Emperor Caesar Trajan Hadrian Augustus, son of the deified Parthian Trajan, grandson of the deified Nerva, Pontifex Maximus of Tribunician Power six years, third consulate, commands the cavalry and infantry, who had served in the army in the thirteen alae and thirty seven cohorts, which are called…[names of all the units]…which are in Britain under Aulus Platorius Nepos, five and twenty stipends, having been discharged with an honorable discharge by Pompeius Falco, their names are noted, to themselves, their children and descendants, the citizenship and the right of legal marriage with the wife they had at the time that citizenship was granted to them, or, if any are unmarried, with the wife they subsequently marry, provided that each takes only one wife.
On the 16th day before the Kalends of August, Ti. Julius Capito, L. Vitrasius Flaminino, consuls; Ala I Pannoniorum Tampiana, commanded by Fabius Sabinus, [this plaque is] presented to the senior infantryman* Gemellus son of Breucus, Pannonian.
Transcribed and recognized out of the bronze tablet which is affixed in Rome on the rear wall of the temple of the divine Augustus to Minerva.
Ti. Claudi Menandri, A. Fulvi Iusti, Ti. Iuli Urbani, L. Pulli Daphni, L. Noni Victoris, Q. Lolli Festi, L. Pulli Anthi.
So, you see what was given to those who retired from the Roman legions in the centuries passed.
But, today that doesn’t often happen. Veterans are very often homeless, or in dire financial straits. While there are various services open to them like the VA hospitals, they have often found the system difficult to navigate, and the system itself has many flaws, which can vary greatly from location to location. Veterans have a much higher rate of drug and alcohol addiction in many cases, no doubt due to the horrors of their experiences in combat; but, even non-combatant veterans have often gone through difficulties and horrible situations that non-servicemembers can scarcely imagine. Suicide rates among current and former servicemembers are extremely high, and the incidence of PTSD, depression, and other such conditions are also rampant amongst them–many are undiagnosed, as I suspect my deceased stepfather was. Many politicians who have used their record of service as a political tool have also had the worst voting records when it comes to veterans’ issues. And, with the latest news about Dover Air Force Base’s complete mishandling of the remains of veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, there is not even the assurance any longer of due respect and honor given to those veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice…
So, if you can find a way to support or thank any veterans you know at present, on this day, and ways to support current servicemembers, please do so.
May Antinous the Liberator and Antinous the Navigator and Antinous the Lover bless every veteran that has ever served, and every servicemember working today!