Like most people on Veteran’s Day, I think about veterans. My thoughts do not start with myself and how I earned that free meal at Applebee’s. Along with a few doses of personal reality, I am simultaneously sad and proud of the men and women serving past, present and future. No matter your stance on the foreign policy of the United States, the sacrifices are undeniable. The individuals who have served and their families have made sacrifices.
If you have read my previous columns, you know I have come to use special days like 9/11 as a point of motivation, but for some reason, this one always gets the best of me. Maybe it is my proximity to the issue, but I cannot seem to get past some of the ugliest images of war that have come upon fellow Americans. I am lucky. I came out of my time in the military alive and in one piece. Others don’t share that luxury.
I guess that is where I differ from the general public. Having those thoughts in mind, I do not feel entitled to all of the “thank you for your service” that I get on Veteran’s Day. My mind immediately goes to our fallen angels or the veterans that have come home with both visible and invisible scars.
I understand all the thanks come from others’ recognition because I served in the military, and I appreciate them. But thoughts for others trump all of the praise.
I also think about the families of our service members on Veteran’s Day. I will never forget calling my dad from Afghanistan to tell him I would not be able to talk to him for a while and not being able to tell him why. My lifelong image of strength started crying for the first time that I remember.
Being a father now, I can finally relate to the feeling of helplessness over protecting your child. As a veteran, this is how I can relate to the general public and accept all the thanks. This was a big deal. We have a different understanding of Veteran’s Day. This is what brings veterans and civilians together on Veteran’s Day.
It means something to everyone.
We have different angles of approach but both share the same intangibles: sacrifice, sadness, patriotism and unselfishness. As a combat veteran, I think of others, and as civilians, you think of others. Veteran’s Day for a veteran has the same end goal with a different angle of approach.
I know a woman in Michigan who will bake a cake and send a handmade card to any veterans that will give her their addresses. The money for it comes straight out of her pocket, and she believes any veteran has already paid her for it. That is the spirit of this holiday.
To me, it is one of the most meaningful holidays. Some businesses use it as a publicity angle; it is the nature of capitalism. But there is meaning behind it that trumps everything and affects every single person in the country.
So, thank veterans in whatever way you feel appropriate. Maybe with time, I will find a way to appreciate my service compared to others. But as of now, I continue to have my thanks in my way and respect everyone’s way of showing their appreciation.
Edited by Maggie Jones