If there’s anything I’ve learned in my nearly six years as a military wife, it’s that the spirit of the American military service member is unlike any other. Humility and gumption run deep in this population of Americans. They took an oath and signed their lives away to our country, and they did so expecting nothing in return. The reasons for enlisting differ from soldier to soldier, but their shared love of freedom, vigilance for their fellow men and women, and motivation to protect the American way of life are some passions that service members share. No matter the capacity in which they serve(d), they have made immense sacrifices for our quality of life and protection.
The Depth and Scope of Sacrifice
Veterans Day can be viewed through the lens of appreciating what we may not directly understand. It’s easy to say “thank you for your service,” and such a gesture is not wrong by any means. Yet, as we dive deeper we may find ways to think about our service members and their families differently.
Not all service members share the same experiences or burdens, and the function of Veterans Day isn’t to focus on differences between them. The point of Veterans Day is to recognize the spirit, determination, dedication, and sacrifices of all men and women who take the oath, not knowing what will come of it.
Every service member’s sacrifices are different. Not everyone will see combat; not everyone will have negative or long-lasting physical and physiological effects. Certainly some will—for this is the nature of the job—but all will sacrifice something. Yet, they all signed up and gave their country a blank check for a cost they could never predict, no questions asked. This is the spirit, the magnetism, that drives the compass of service. This is what we should not forget.
Considering the Impacts on a Veteran/Military Family
Consider the military spouse, whose sacrifice may often be acknowledged only at a cursory level. A husband or wife whose partner is frequently absent in the call of duty, they must also continue to answer the call asked of them. Though they may not themselves have the title of “veteran,” we should not let their sacrifices go unnoticed. They, too, need our support and our compassion. No part of life is necessarily easy, but those who are military spouses often carry additional yokes foreign to the rest of us. For their sacrifice, we should remember to be grateful.
Consider the military child, who only has the logic and emotional reasoning of a typical child, and yet has to engage with military life. They must interpret the absence, presence, and sacrifice of their parent serving in the military while continuing to live out their childhood. The military life may change in routine, location, or familial presence, and yet the they all continue on. Having an immediate family member in the military is not without difficulty, but the determination to keep advancing in the face of uncertainty or adversity is a mindset that is shared within the military family.
Thanking a veteran is a humble and kind gesture, but we would be remiss if we forgot their support network in our in encouragement.
How Can We Convey Our Appreciation?
I’ve learned that a way we can express our gratitude to our veterans is simply by listening to them. The military changes a person, whether they serve in combat or not, whether they’re active duty or reserves, and whether they experience physical or mental injuries/affects or not. No matter the circumstances, the military mindset and values alter the worldviews and functionalities of those who serve. Allowing them the space and opportunity to share their stories with us validates their experiences and, in turn, educates us.
Most years on Veterans Day, I find myself feeling at a loss of how to express my gratitude, since a simple “thank you” doesn’t feel like enough. However, for a lot of servicemen and women, a simple “thank you” is more than enough! A “thank you” helps them realize that their commitment and service was meaningful to someone, especially to someone they don’t even know. They served to protect our freedom and ensure we live a life of prosperity. Hearing that that has been accomplished and appreciated is inferably significant.
Tangible Ways to Celebrate
I’m not sure about you, but I love to come up with ways to tangibly help others. (That’s the visual learner in me coming out.) I’ve compiled a short idea list of things we can do this Veterans Day to support those who have served:
- Donate to a veteran organization.
- There are so many incredible organizations on both the state and national levels that support our veterans. I encourage you to look into specific organizations that speak to you and donate your money and/or time to these organizations.
- A lot of veterans desire to share their stories and experiences; offer them the opportunity to do so if they wish.
- Have your children make cards for the veterans in your life or send them via A Million Thanks and Operation Thank You.
- There are other organizations that coordinate sending mail to veterans, but these are the ones I have the most experience with.
- Birmingham’s Annual Veterans Day Parade
- Did you know that Birmingham has one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the country? This is due to the fact that Birmingham is the home of America’s first Veterans Day! The parade begins at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 11th, rain or shine (the livestream begins at 1:30). Make sure you’re following the National Veterans Day Birmingham page on Facebook for photos and updates of the parade.
Supporting Our Veterans
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to support our veterans. It takes all of us recognizing that being in the military is a hard job and often leads to a hard life. Those who volunteer to do so warrant our gratitude. Our gratitude can take many forms, and there are no right or wrong ways to show it. As long as we strive to remember those who eagerly volunteer in our defense, we are on the right track. Let’s take this Veterans Day to be humbled by the resolve, dedication, and selfless service of all our veterans and their families.