How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.
Whenever Veterans Day nears, I have a pit in my stomach.
During that day, and for several days afterwards, I feel the
enormity of what has been sacrificed to keep me free. I feel a gratitude that is overwhelming and linked with tears. I say to my students who are veterans, to my husband and other friends who have served, "Thank you for your service." However, it rings a little hollow. That phrase is heartfelt, yet it doesn't begin to cover the cost.
My Dad was a veteran in WWII, stationed in Italy for more
than three years. He was newly married. He left a business, a wife, his country and lived in a tent. He loaded bombs into airplanes, day after day, in an effort to keep Hitler from taking over Europe and the rest of the world. On Veterans Day I always pull out the pictures of my Dad in his uniform. My younger Dad. The one who still smiled easily. There was no question that he would serve. He wanted to give the gift.
In later life he wondered aloud, and with much sadness, if perhaps some of those bombs had also hurt innocent people. That wondering hurt his heart. According to my Mom, a new bride when he left, Mark was "a changed man." How could he not be.
A life changed forever.
War is awful and horrible and hurtful and many tough
lessons have been learned in the wars we have fought. And the life of every soldier, on both sides, is changed forever.
Yet no matter where we stand politically on a war, in my view we need to love and care for those we ask to go and make the ultimate sacrifice. Vietnam Veterans often came home to cat-calls and horrible signs. Not only had they made a huge sacrifice, it seemed like so many of them were vilified at home.
Hopefully we learned a lesson from the pain they
endured. We may not agree with a war, but we will care for and love those who went to serve in it.
My beloved Bert was/is an Army paratrooper. I say "is"
because it is so a part of who he is today and the values he holds. Now, as a counselor, he often works with Veterans who are struggling, who have PTSD. Serving changed them, grew them up, brought them square in line with a side of life that stretches and pains them, and pains those they love.
And women serve and leave home and children and lives that will never be the same. They give their all to keep freedom alive. They serve with honor and love and dignity and pay the cost.
Lives changed forever.
Saying thank you doesn't seem adequate, but it's what I have to offer. Saying thank you, not just on Veterans Day, seems to be even more important.
A friend at the college where I teach sent me this video link on Tuesday. And the tears flowed. Somehow the voices of these sweet third grade elementary children captured what was and is in my heart.
Don't miss this.
"We are all just walking each other home." ...