November 11; the day flags will fly, government offices and even schools will be closed in observation of Veterans Day. While the observances are being conducted here in the United States, many of those veterans are continuing their journey on our behalf on foreign soil, as well as here on the homefront. Even more ironic is that for the veteran who has returned home and to civilian life, this day may be like every other for them.
Perhaps, a family member will reach across state lines via telephone or e-mail to say thank you. They may receive an extra special hug from their children, expressing a gratitude they may not even yet completely understand. Some will be fortunate enough to have the day off and live in the moment of such praise. Many others, however, will slip on their shoes, throw on a jacket and head out the door for work on this day like every other day. Many veterans are spending this day, the day we honor them … working.
When not in uniform these veterans we honor on this day appear to be like the rest of us. They greet us at the grocery store, clean the windows of our businesses, own businesses of their own, protect us from harm as community service officers (police, fire and EMT) and serve our children as teachers, administrators and Parent Teacher Club members.
In their ‘civilian’ clothes they appear to be like the rest of us. Their history, however, is what makes them different. Many of these men and women have seen and experienced things the rest of us cannot and will not ever imagine. And then there are the others who may not have seen the ‘action’ they anticipated when they committed themselves to this service. Many of them live with the demons of these life experiences, while others transition from this role as if it were just another job on their résumé.
The job they have done, however, is not just another job. It is a job, which brings with it not only much risk, but also much responsibility. Their actions protect so much, that so many of us take for granted. The words we use and forums we place them in are gifts from these brave men and women. Without these people taking a stand for our country and protecting the rights we enjoy, life for us would be so different.
They are rights and privileges we have lived as a country for so long, that younger generations cannot begin to comprehend what life would be without them. This is where as adults it is our responsibility to not just rely on the schools to teach our children, but empower ourselves to do the same. One need not be a history buff or up on worldly affairs to empower themselves with the knowledge needed to help our upcoming generations. As these veterans feel their service was their duty, we should feel an equal commitment to honor their actions through education of how things could be — if not for these men and women.
Every so often a film or documentary will come along to remind us of the many injustices still taking place around the world. Hotel Rwanda immediately comes to mind as one such film. As Americans, we shudder at the thought of such inhumane behavior — it is simply unimaginable to us — thanks to our veterans.
Reflecting back it seems a bit ironic to me that as a country and a society we still spend so much time discussing Sept. 11 and the effects it has had on our lives. We remember and acknowledge all of the innocent who lost their lives on that day and what it meant to us as Americans.
While, many veterans enlisted in the service as a personal choice, this day — Veterans Day — should prompt equal or more conversation from us as Americans. I have yet in life to come upon a person who is not personally related to or friends with a veteran of the armed services. How many of us actually pick-up the phone on this day and thank them? Sure you could shoot them a text or an e-mail, but think about what they have done for you — isn’t that worth a phone call or a hand-signed card of thanks?
The events of last week in Fort Bragg are beyond disturbing. My hope is that somehow, something good (rather than evil) can come of this. This event should remind us, not to profile people with different last names or skin color — that benefits no one. We should rather accept this as a reminder of how important it is to always express our gratitude to these selfless men and women.
This time last week, their loved ones and friends were saddened as they were preparing for a deployment. They were traveling in to the unknown, where connection with loved ones is sporadic at best. They were preparing to do their job.
Now, one week later those same families are preparing for the burials of their soldiers — and they never left our soil.
We as Americans must utilize this misfortune and tragedy as our call to action. We should always embrace and express our gratitude to our veterans. It is time for us to be grateful, always — not just when they return from danger. Grateful, not just because they wear the uniform, but grateful because they do it proudly (regardless of risk) for each and every one of us.
On behalf of the entire staff here at The Oakdale Leader this goes out to all our veterans. Whether young or old, wounded or well— we salute you and thank you for protecting us and our freedoms. God bless you all.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.