On this Veterans Day
Our veterans are drawn from several generations and many backgrounds. They’re Americans who remember the swift conflict of the Persian Gulf War; and a long Cold War vigil; the heat of Vietnam and the bitter cold of Korea. They are veterans who served under MacArthur and Eisenhower and saved the liberty of the world. They are young men and women with recent memories of battles on mountains and in deserts of foreign lands. I am proud and honored to say that I have served alongside some of these heroes. I have worn the uniform and stood beside them as only a fellow brother or sister in arms can. That’s why I can speak to their struggles and their bravery so confidently and passionately.
I’ve witnessed their challenges upon returning home from the battlefield. I’ve watched them hug their families, as I have hugged mine, knowing all the while the invisible wounds of war are real within some of our nation’s greatest and strongest.
Today, people often speak of heroes as the athlete who scores the winning touchdown, the Olympic gold medal winner, or a popular actor. While they may do heroic deeds within the context of their sport or trade, these are not heroes in the truest form of the word for they do not risk themselves – their lives or the chance of sharing that hello embrace with their loved ones again. Heroes are those who do all of this so others do not have to.
It should go without saying that the willingness to sacrifice oneself to this degree comes with the potential for great loss. Many of us veterans have lost a fellow brother or sister in our nation’s conflicts and have struggled with enduring that loss. We have left our families so often that we face hardships trying to make up for the time apart. We have moved on a moment’s notice, learned to adapt, then asked to adapt again.
For all of these intensely unique facets of a life of service, we must remember there is no shame in asking for help. Just as we would see a physician for a broken bone, our mental well-being deserves the same treatment. And as military culture demands that we serve together and have each other’s backs; as a nation this is the least we can offer in return in order to ensure our patriots realize we are here to help them heal.
We should make it a priority to honor those who have served and those who continue to serve, not only on Veterans Day but every day. We can do this by volunteering to help those veterans who are still with us, by assisting a family who is grieving the loss of a service member, by visiting those injured in the line of duty and help them realize a new life, by lending an ear to hear about the potential costs of their sacrifice. Learn about what resources are available for veterans beyond what you can provide. You can find a way in your life – at work or home, at church or a youth group meeting, wherever – to honor their service, listen to their stories, cherish their memories and ensure our military service men and women and their loved ones know they are never alone – not on Veterans Day or any day. There is always help and together we can provide it.
- BG (ret) Michael Fleming