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To my surprise, my youngest son’s kinder class has been talking about Veterans this past week. Everyday my son came home with new thoughts – and questions – about what “serving” means. He talked about soldiers having to go a long way away and having courage. He asked me if only Daddy needed to be a soldier or if I would need to go away, too. This thought bothered him quite a bit – he needed near constant reassurance that I would not be leaving him like his Daddy did. Then he would abruptly change topics, although he’d circle back around later to tell me things like “Vet-wans have to be stwong.” Or, “Vet-wans weaw unifowms.” His fascination with the topic proved a fabulous mechanism to talk about why his Daddy is gone, what he is doing, and when we might get to see him again. We talked about how much we love and miss Daddy, and how we are so thankful that he is so strong, and brave – and how much Mommy likes his uniform.
The appreciation and respect he showed when talking about the “Vet-wans” and “soldiews” was a little startling. Afterall, the bulk of Americans, especially those older than 6, take our troops completely for granted. And, though, as a military spouse, I appreciate the hell out of my husband and his fellow soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors and coasties.
But, again, it’s easy, even for us, to take this lifestyle and the constant sacrifice our troops make for granted. On shore duty, I’ve often asked my husband after particularly frustrating conversations with him, “Don’t you have a deployment to go on?” Our familiarity with the lifestyle breeds complacency. We say things like, “Oh, he’s in the sandbox.” Or, “They’re doing turns in the pond.” Until homecoming or deployment these are just things we say. Until our spouse’s unit, ship, battalion, division or squadron deploys. Only then do those phases get said with the gravitas they deserve.
And the rest of America? Well, if you watch TV or open your email, you’re likely to believe that they are all at the mall (to borrow from my friend Gina). Macy’s, Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Home Depot, Lowes, Penney’s, and countless others have BIG SALES to “honor” our troops. They offer a 10-25% discount on whatever purchase they can lure our families into making this weekend. Restaurants are doing it better this weekend with several offering free meals to veterans: Olive Garden, Applebees, California Pizza Kitchen. And that’s really nice. It is.
But, the average American? I don’t think there’s a whole lot of appreciation or thanks being said to our vets. It’s just another day. For some, it’s a day off from work or school; they’re thankful for that. But not thankful enough to tell Congress to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our families. Not thankful enough to stop sending ground troops to “the sandbox” without proper equipment, uniforms or armor. Not thankful enough to understand when our Wounded Warriors come home and need medical, mental health and social services – they’re called “bums,” “psycho,” and “too lazy to work.”
So what happens? What happens to change the awe and amazement that young children have for our troops to the disregard or, worse, disdain, that is the norm for our vets? Whatever it is, we need to figure it out and fix it. These men and women deserve our thanks, our respect and, in my opinion, our society owes it to those who have sacrificed to see that their basic needs are met after their return. Think about it. Think about what these individuals have seen; what they have gone through both while deployed and after they return. Now, do something about it. Donate to Wounded Warrior, or your local soup kitchen. Volunteer at a VA Center or the USO.
Or, just thank a vet.
Do it today.
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