Every year a very distinctive holiday comes around that hits home very deeply with a “special” group. Though I am part of that group, that day has not been “special” to me.
Rather I preferred to ignore it.
I’m not alone in this feeling, not by a long shot, my friend.
Many Americans, in fact, I’ll shamefully admit could care less about this day, unless of course it’s a union bargained holiday and you get to work and cash in on double time and a half pay. Now that’s special!
It’s one of those holidays perceived to benefit only some people, yet in truth if you are an American living in this country you are a beneficiary. A few have a personal connection by their life experience, as I do, or are connected via a member of their family.
Most folks are usually simply hard at work for just another day.
If you haven’t guessed the day, it’s Veterans Day.
It was introduced after the “war to end all wars”: World War I. Don’t we all wish that were true? Back then it was called Armistice Day. But it wasn’t the war to end all wars, and World War II followed. Today we call it Veterans Day, a day to honor all those that served in our military.
Yours truly, a Vietnam War veteran who turned 66 this year, received my first Social Security retirement payment.
Of more significant note is this year was the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, which came as a surprise. That means I’ve been home from the war for 45 years! Has it really been half a century?
One thing all combat veterans experience; the war never, ever leaves you. My friend, there’s not a single day, no matter how serene and peaceful, that isn’t interrupted at least once by mental or emotional impressions of the war.
It is who we are as war veterans.
Most of us, determined to live a life worthy of surviving, do our absolute best to put the war and its debilitating effects behind us. Depending upon the amount of trauma one has endured, this can be either a serious challenge, extremely difficult or at worst, impossible. And sadly, some never come home.
Most veterans are not as bad off as many may think. The media can give the impression that today’s veterans are all wounded souls living on the streets and committing suicide. Reality is that many of the people you do business with each day are proud, healthy, well-adjusted veterans.
However, I am not saying we should not care for those that have fallen on hard times or don’t come back to a “real home”.
The cold, lonely streets of America should not be the “home” of the brave.
Today’s veterans serving in wars in Afghanistan: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) makes up less than one percent of the current population. This makes them hardly noticeable, yet they are among us, and like veterans of past wars, they are doing their best to return to civilian life and be productive members of our society.
Veterans Day makes me think of the Gold Star families: families that have endured the pain of loss of a service member in their family. The heartaches are lessened only by the pride they have in knowing that their loved one’s death was the most honorable death possible.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13
I invite you to make this Veterans Day a “Special Day.”
Invest twenty patriotic bucks to surprise your neighbors by putting a flag out this year or change that porch light to green. Or join the latest demonstration of support, whether you have served or not.
And by all means, whenever you see that old man or young father wearing a veteran ball cap, say a simple “thanks for your service!” and it’s never too late to say “welcome home” to the aging Vietnam veteran.
Happy Veterans Day! from SSGT Richard Bergquist, 101st Airborne Div. Vietnam 68-70.
Chaplain, La Mirada VFW Post 9148
Founder Search & Restore War Vets Ministry