Wanted to do a little more than just wish everyone a happy Veterans Day, so I thought I’d leave my thoughts here instead of a Facebook post that would be too lengthy for many to read.
So, first and foremost – Happy Veterans Day to all who served! Thank you for what you have done and are doing. I appreciate each and every one of you and the contribution you have made. I consider myself very fortunate to have met so many great people throughout my Naval career and treasure the lifelong friendships that have been formed. I will always be proud to call myself one of you.
To my fellow veterans – we share a bond that none but us understand. Regardless of if we served together or not, we know what it meant to rely on each other. We know what it means to depend upon your brother or sister to do their job so that you can do yours. We have quite literally placed our lives in the hands of our brothers and sisters and have done so with confidence. We enjoy the benefits of that devotion to each other – the camaraderie, the support, the fraternity. Others can try to imagine what that is about, but only we who have been there truly know. It is the mission that binds us. It is that common cause towards which we all contribute that makes us lean on each other. And while the missions change throughout the years, let us never forget we always have a mission. Think back through the annals of our history and remember the sacrifices of those who came before us. Think about how they paved the way for us and made our service easier. Think of the countless doors our predecessors knocked down so that we could pass through. And please realize that for those of us who have moved on from active duty, our mission is to continue their work. It is our duty to continue to fight for our brothers and sisters to ensure they are taken care of. We must protect the rights we have all earned. Too many of our brothers and sisters struggle to survive today. Their lives are in our hands today just as they were then – we can not let them down.
For those who didn’t serve, I say thank you for all the support. It really does feel great to know how much the citizens of this great nation love and support our military members. We all feel the love and we appreciate it. But I challenge you to also be active in your support. Ask yourself if the offered thanks and the ribbon magnet are enough. Ask yourself if they aren’t there at least in part to make yourself feel better about you. And challenge yourself to do something that will actually help veterans.
So what can we all do? That’s the $64k question I suppose. And while I don’t have all the answers, I’ll offer some. (I welcome my readers to offer additional suggestions in the comments)
– First and most importantly – please do your due diligence when casting a ballot. The notion that everyone should vote is complete and utter bullshit. It is your civic duty to educate yourself on the issues and the candidates before you cast that vote. If you can’t take the time to make your decision an informed one, please stay home and let the rest of us make these decisions. So study those issues and those candidates and please give sufficient weight to veterans issues in your decision-making process. How willing is this candidate to put troops in harms way before exhausting other options? How supportive of veterans is this candidate after the war is over? What does the candidate do for the VA, for veterans healthcare, for veterans education, for veterans employment, for veterans compensation and retirement benefits, for veterans housing, for veterans families? Beware of those who wrap themselves in the flag and most loudly claim to support the military. Be sure to make the distinction between those who are supporting defense contractors and those who are supporting the people who wore the uniform. Wrapping yourself in the flag and screaming about doubling our defense budget does nothing to help service members. Buying more hardware doesn’t help people. So do some research and please give the needs of veterans serious consideration when making your voting decisions.
– Financially support veterans charities. If you’re a person who likes to donate to a good cause, find a good veterans cause. There’s so many out there. And don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be cash – many veterans groups will accept everything from vehicles to furniture to clothing to frequent flier miles. One of my favorite charities looking for support is Puppies Behind Bars which is a program that has prisoners train dogs to be service dogs for veterans suffering with PTSD and other issues. Helps the prisoners and helps the veterans.
– Donate time to veterans. Contact your local VA, VFW, DAV, American Legion, Homes for Our Troops, etc and ask how you can help. Volunteers are always needed and I promise you that you will get more out of it than you give. There is nothing better than spending some time with veterans. Best storytellers ever! One of my favorite charities in need of volunteers is The Honor Flight Network which works to provide WWII veterans with a free trip to the WWII Memorial in DC. They will be expanding their services to Korean and Vietnam veterans soon as well.
I consider myself so fortunate to have served in the greatest Navy the world has ever known. I worked with people from all walks of life and I’m a better person today because of it. I formed bonds that can never be broken with some of the highest quality people around. And I know that I have an obligation to those who have served and those who still serve. I’ll do my part to help and I ask all of you to consider doing some real good for veterans as well.