I have started and erased so many paragraphs in this post. I thought it would be easy to write, being a veteran myself. But in fact, it’s one of the hardest posts I’ve written. I honestly don’t know how to capture the sentiment about how I feel about being a veteran and the deep connection I feel to other veterans. I don’t know how to express the pride that still swells within me, mixed with the nostalgia, and even the sadness as a veteran.
For some, Veterans Day may just be a day when we remember and honor those who have served and are serving our country. For others, it is so much more … because their family members never came home, or came home changed and wrecked by the wounds of war.
For me, it’s a day of reflection and pride.
Today is about more than thanking men and women for their service. It’s about honoring their sacrifices and letting them know that it means something to us too.
How to Honor Veterans and Their Sacrifices
In my opinion, one of the ways you can do that is by asking a veteran to share some of their most memorable experiences. I love listening to old war stories. I’m a history buff anyway, but I’m absolutely mesmerized by some of the absolutely insane things that happen during wartime, and sometimes during peacetime too.
I come from a family of veterans – down my father’s side and my mother’s. I love hearing stories about my grandfather, my mom’s dad. He was a fighter pilot who had served as a Forward Air Controller during the Korean war. Those guys, wow. Talk about heroes. They are on the ground in the midst of the battle, telling the pilots where to drop the bombs. It’s a dangerous job, and many, many Forward Air Controllers died in the Korean War.
But “Country” (my grandpa’s call sign because he was a farmer) made it home from that war. It was on a normal training day like any other that something went wrong with his plane. Despite his efforts to control the plane, he crashed into a hillside in Iowa and died. He left behind a wife and eleven children, spanning from ages 17 to only 2 weeks old. This happened two weeks before Christmas.
My father, a young fighter pilot at the time, was actually flying in formation with my grandfather that day. It was my dad who made the “May Day” call. And my dad who, out of respect to his friend and fellow serviceman, went out to help my grandmother with her farm. Two years later, my dad “Stumpy” – cause he was so short, married “Country’s” oldest daughter. My mom.
My grandpa was one of the many that “gave all” while serving this country. He made the ultimate sacrifice.
But there are so many others who sacrifice so much in other ways. Like the wounded warriors, who come home damaged. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. Or, like the families who sacrifice every day while their loved one is far away. Like my grandmother, who had to pick up the pieces and raise 11 children on her own. Like the mother now, at home with three small children of her own to raise for the year that daddy is gone to war.
If you decide to ask and then listen, you will hear amazing stories of courage and camaraderie, friendship, love, and pride. Stories of fear and stories that make you howl in laughter. Your listening will be a gift to that veteran as well; a moment that they can share those stories and relive those moments that mean so much to them.
Ways to Help Out and Give Back to Our Veterans
If it moves you, between now and next Veteran’s day, I challenge you to give back to our Veterans. There are some simple ways to help:
- Support the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) – WWP programs have helped tens of thousands of warriors continue to heal. However, many more are still suffering from life-changing wounds like traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These heroes need our ongoing help as they continue their long journey to recovery. That’s why WWP is committed to providing America’s brave, wounded veterans a lifetime of support. There are so many ways you can help through WWP.
- Offer to help the family of an active duty service member who is deployed. Even the simple act of mowing their yard, fixing a meal, or watching the children for a few hours so the parent at home can get a break. It makes a difference.
- Consider volunteering at the VA Hospital or the Columbia Vet Center. We have a huge hospital – Dorn Medical Center on Garner’s Ferry. There are always ways for volunteers to help.
Those who have served our country make up an important part of our history and the freedoms we have today. Thank you for your service!