Veterans Day is always a tough day for me as I suspect it is for many. This year, my wife will be traveling, my older kids are spread across the country, and my youngest will be in school. See, in America, Veterans Day is not a day off for all. It is for active military, some banks and the federal government, but not the rest of America. Veterans across the nation will still get up and go to work…these same Veterans that have sacrificed for others for years.
I should mention that it is hard for me to “feel” like a Veteran. I spent 20 years in the Army, as a 13F forward Observer (FIST), as an Airborne Soldier in Panama, as a Recruiter for the 160th SOAR (A) Night Stalkers, as Recruiting Station Commander, a Company First Sergeant and a Battalion Master Trainer. Every one of these positions are either elite units, elite missions or despised by most due to mission or ignorance of details. In essence, I have always been in a “Bastard Child” role. I know that may sound harsh, but my brothers and sisters who were beside me knew the passion and challenges of each role, and those outside our circle knew little of us or our mission. What everyone does know is that we never failed. Like all Veterans, I carry the memory of lost brothers and sisters.
When I was in the 82nd ABN Division, I served on the firing squad at my Squad Leader’s funeral. I will never forget the way his wife jumped with each shot we fired in his honor. I also remember that it was a rainy day and one of the pallbearers fell into the grave in his Class A uniform when doing a left face to lower the casket. I was filled with emotions of horror, anger and a sick urge to laugh. I also recall that the funeral parlor forgot to bring the tape for TAPS, so the funeral director rolled up a program and put it to his mouth and hummed the entire thing. I recall being disgusted, and at the same time, impressed with his skill in doing that. I hoped that the family did not notice.
After the service, we mingled in the small, country, North Carolina church and ate, but mainly, we soldiers stuck to ourselves. That’s the last I remember of SSG Chism; he was 36 years old, and I was 19. I served on many other funeral details; I do not know who any of them were. All I recall is the way people jump when you fire the shots. Later, I attended a memorial service for one of our brothers who killed himself at Fort Campbell. I remember no one wanted to go. Our leaders made us go and everyone was griping about it. I felt bad for the family when they entered. Three members of his family were there. No one else came and I can not recall his name.
I have several more examples that I carry with me, none of them complete, no one the same, some I have never shared. I know that I am not unique. All Veterans have their memories, and they are special. To even let them go would be to kill the last little part of that solider I remember.
I get angered when I hear people complain about seeing yet another Military/Veteran recognition at a football game or at a parade. But the way I see it is, I have had my time to be recognized, to be remembered. It is this person’s turn that we are watching and honoring. That Soldier or Veteran may never have another chance to “feel” like a Veteran. Too many came home with no parades, no “Thank You.” Too many came home with memories that live inside them, with or without names. And too many were not able to come home.
The weeks leading up to Veterans Day offer many opportunities to say thank you to Veterans. Those opportunities are not excessive, too many or overdone. Veterans deserve to be thanked. It is hard for many Veterans to accept thank you, but do it anyway. And to all of my fellow Veterans, you are a Veteran, and you are not forgotten. I do not know your name and you do not know my mine, but we know each other. We are your brothers and sisters, your mothers, your fathers, your sons, your daughters and your grandparents. We are America and together we are the greatest country in the world.
I leave you with a sincere thank you to Veterans for your sacrifices. While we would all likely do it all again, it was not easy. I also leave you with a plea to all Veterans and non-Veterans. Do not get tired of saying thank you or feel it is overdone. If you feel it is overdone, then thank God that it is done for you, but some have not had their day, and Veterans Day is for that Veteran and for us all!
Thank a Veteran with a job, Hire a Veteran!
**In the spirit of Veterans and giving thanks to those who’ve served, we will be announcing a special social media campaign for Veterans Day later this week. Check back on the blog, or visit VAcareers on Facebook or Twitter to learn how you can participate.