As Veteran’s Day approaches, I look around and realize that for many it’s merely a day that is an inconvenience to them. The banks and post office are closed, it slows business down for them and yet, there are many that this day is the most sacred day of the year.
I am not going to presume to speak for any person who has served in combat or lost a loved one because of it. I am only going to speak from my point of view about Veteran’s Day. I am not a Veteran but I am a former military wife who spent fourteen months of hell on this side of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is what I think of when I think about Veteran’s Day.
I remember a Halloween night in 2004 as I walked around a National Guard armory trying to make sense of what was happening. My mind was in a fog and the entire process felt more than surreal that day, my worst nightmare was happening before my very eyes as I was surrounded by men in camouflage green uniforms and children in Halloween costumes. The children were missing out on the festivities of the night in their local neighborhoods because they were there to say good-bye to daddy or mommy before they left later that evening on the first leg of their journey to Iraq. We were waiting for the busses to come take our loved ones from us.
The busses came and took our loved ones to Fort Dix and in a few short weeks they would fly out of there to Iraq. Our lives had been turned inside out and now we had to figure out how to manage our lives in a semi-normal way for the next year.
Lives of those who love a member of the military are far from normal during a deployment. You peek through the curtains when there is a knock at your door because you fear there is someone in a uniform on the other side. You fear a missed phone call because you know that there is always a strong possibility that there will never be another. You don’t erase voicemails that say “I love you”. You keep them just in case…
Sleep is elusive at best; you have two cells phones from different carriers just in case you are out of range with one when your loved one calls. You smile, you are polite and you wish to heaven that everyone would quit spouting their political opinion at you. Your only opinion is: you want your military member home, safe and in the same physical and mental condition as they left. You will discover later that is impossible; nobody comes home exactly the same.
When they come home, you discover that nobody is the same. Your child comes home from playing with the neighbors visibly shaken because they were playing “war”. War is not a game to your child. You discover you have some level of PTSD yourself that nobody will address because only soldier’s get PTSD, your soldier has PTSD and the military sort of forgets about National Guard Soldiers for the first six months.
You now live with a Veteran and you also feel battle weary. Life isn’t the same; it will never be the same. His passion for hunting is gone; you can’t leave meat trays in the house after you take the meat out because it makes him sick. He is quieter, you are both sadder and your child remembers the fear of wondering if her daddy will ever come again, while children at school say horrible things about service members to her.
These are the reasons; I don’t discuss politics with anyone ever. Why I love Veteran’s and one of the many reasons I am grateful to be an American.
Because of those who stood up and have been counted as Veteran’s, I have the right to make choices including the right to choose to be neither republican nor democrat. I am simply an American. Who has seen firsthand the price that some pay for my freedom and can only begin to imagine the price others have paid.
As I stated earlier, I don’t presume to speak for anyone but myself. I have no idea what it feels like to walk in the shoes of a Veteran or a family member who has lost a loved one. I simply know what it feels like for me to see a man or woman walk down the street in uniform and feel my heart break all over again.
On this Veteran’s Day, I hope you remember what the day is really about. It’s not about the banks being closed or the waiting an extra day for your mail. It is about the men and women who have put their lives on the line knowing they may never return, in order to give us all the right to disagree with their choice to serve their country. Because of them we have the right to speak out when we disagree with our government or sit passively by and ignore it all. It’s our choice, our freedom and we have it because men and women before us and even now, still choose to put the freedom of others over their own lives.
While Veteran’s Day is to remember our Veteran’s, I would also like to remember those that stayed behind, waiting, praying and often crying for those that you love to come home safely. You may not have been face to face with combat in your physical world but you certainly saw it every night in your dreams. This has never been a task for the weak but so many, including me, who would prefer to never again have the need to be that strong.
To all Veteran’s past and present. This American is grateful for your service. Thank you seems inadequate but it is all I have. On this Veteran’s Day and every single day of the year: Thank you for your commitment to my freedom, thank you for your courage, your selflessness and for being a person who puts others before yourself. May you always be blessed and never forgotten.
Remember your Veteran’s.