Veterans Day is rapidly approaching. It is a day to honor those who have served in the US Armed Forces. Truth be told, I am often embarrassed when people thank me for my service, mostly because I know so many veterans who have given so much more and continue to give more. Veterans, like any humans, come in all different shapes and sizes, some are good and some are not so good, but one thing is indisputable, they have all sacrificed for this country.
Some countries have compulsory military service for all of their citizens, while in the US we enjoy an all volunteer force. Less than 1% of all adults in the US are veterans. That’s 1% of the population that bears the burden and puts their lives on the line for the rest of the citizenry. They do it for different reasons, some for the opportunity it provides, some for patriotic reasons. It doesn’t even matter why they serve, they understand it could be for all the marbles.
When it comes to bearing this burden the veterans are not alone. They have family: parents, spouses, children, and siblings, who also sacrifice while they are gone. Their sacrifice can’t be overstated. For months and often years their loved ones are in harms way and they know it. Sleepless nights, fear when the phone rings and dread when car doors shut in front of their homes are part and parcel for these folks as they worry for the very lives of their loved ones.
Not only do veterans put their lives on the line and worry their families sick, but they also put their lives on hold while serving. While many young Americans, ship off to college after high school, veterans ship off to a very different place. Veterans give up much of the certainty that comes with a college diploma or a trade license that their peers will receive while the veteran is serving.
Now of course, veterans have many great benefits after completing their service honorably. They have the GI Bill, Civil Service Hiring Preference, the VA Loan, and the free cheeseburger and fries at participating restaurants on Veterans Day – for the record I despise the free lunch as a rule – but I am grateful for the gesture. There are some great benefits upon completion of service. In fact, I often hear people talk about what a great deal it is and how it’s not fair, particularly when it comes hiring preference. I usually reply to that with; if it’s such a great deal where were you when it was time to sign your name on the dotted line and pick up a rifle.
In the end, being a veteran is about about sacrifice and commitment. On this upcoming Veterans Day, my thoughts are with my father and his life long service, which eventually cost him his best years as he struggled with cancer from Agent Orange. My thoughts are with my friends that are suffering with debilitating injuries, illness and PTSD, from their service. I am also thinking of my friends who are veterans, that are currently hitting it out of the park at work and at home, setting an example, being a man. I thank them and they know who they are.
By David James Bruce