Both of my grandfathers were Veterans. They served in different branches of service and never discussed that time with me. I was told it was sad or too painful for them to talk about. The horrors of war were not to be discussed with a child. So when Veteran’s Day came around, we hung the flag and that was about it. It was as if no one wanted to truly recognize the day.
Through my history classes in junior high I learned about the views some people had regarding Veterans from different wars. They all did what was asked of them but World War Vets were met with parades, while Vietnam Vets were spat upon when they returned home. I will never understand how any Veteran could be dishonored in that way — dishonored for doing what was asked of them, and in many cases, drafted to do so. Political reasons aside, these were individuals without a choice — what a sad statement for our nation’s people.
Then in high school the sacrifice one soldier made hit me square in the face. It happened when a classmate received the news that her older brother was killed in action. She was never the same — her family was never the same. He had paid the ultimate price. Until that day, the people and the wars these brave souls fought in seemed so distant — part of our country but certainly nothing that would touch my life.
After I became a stepmother, my stepson Nathan, shared his dream of joining the Marine Corps. A dream, I secretly hoped would change into something else, but at eighteen he announced that he had enlisted. This handsome teenager stood in front of us so proud and excited about his decision. We congratulated him with hugs and smiles, and then he raced off to share his big news. The moment he left, his Dad just sat in a state of disbelief — Nathan had just made a decision that would change his life. He was a young man and his father realized he could not protect his son any longer. I on the other hand, went to the bathroom to cry. I was scared for him and my classmate’s horror rushed back. I prayed this would not happen in our family.
Before we knew it, Nathan was off to Iraq. We suffered through many sleepless nights and listened for every bit of news we could find. We pounced on the phone every time it rang and rushed to the mailbox in hopes of a letter. We celebrated his homecomings and dreaded his deployments. But we were blessed because after serving two tours in Iraq and one on a ship, he’s safely back home. His time in the service changed him and us. He’s a Veteran with many experiences behind him, some good and many horrific. But he served his country with pride and dignity, even when he didn’t agree with the orders he was given.
Since the day he enlisted, the word Veteran has literally come home. Telling people about my stepson’s service has opened other Vets up to sharing their service. I know now the sacrifices of military life and have made it a point to thank Veterans for their service to our country — sadly this has surprised many of them as no one had ever thanked them.
This Veteran’s Day, surprise a Vet, say “THANK YOU!” Our country is great because of these men and women. So once again, to all the Veterans out there — “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE — FOR YOUR COMMITMENT — FOR YOUR VALOR — FOR THE SACRIFICES MADE BY YOU AND YOUR FAMILY — AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME, SOMETHING THAT WILL NEVER BE REPLACED!”
MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!
Author’s Note: I wanted to take this opportunity to thank my stepson and all the Veteran’s who gave up so much to serve our country. I am so proud of them all! The Photographs were supplied by Nathan and were taken during his time on the USS Tarawa.