Often times I want to take a poll of the Veterans I’ve been lucky enough to encounter in my life. The conversation (although one sided in my head) starts like this:
“You made the choice to leave everything you knew to fight an enemy you’ve never met. You left your home, your family, your friends and you created new ones for however long you served. What made you choose that life? Was it worth it?”
Maybe it was a family affair “My dad was in this branch, my mom was in that branch, my grandfather served”. Or maybe it was “9/11 pissed me off and I couldn’t sit around doing nothing”. I even assume it could be “I screwed up a lot and was shipped off to get my act together”. Whatever the response, they deserve more than our thankfullness, respect, and prayers.
I’ve heard the horror stories of the VA hospitals – not enough staff, and even less funding. A medic vet I met in New Orleans literally blew himself up during a training exercise and at 26 has a heart monitor. He passed out in front of me after having a sneezing fit, but he’s learned to handle life knowing that if he has a more serious problem it’ll be a while till he can see a doctor. He’s learned that even though its literally his heart, he’ll have at least a month long wait to get into the VA if he makes an appointment. Another time I was told “I knew I’d get in that day if I told them I was Suicidal. I know I’m not, but I needed help”. I can’t think of anything worse. I had a sinus infection and was annoyed at dealing with it so I made an appointment for the doctor the same afternoon I called…
I can only go by veterans reviews of the most recent war books & movies that have been released – Unbroken, the true story of Louis Zampirini, Hacksaw Ridge; the true story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss, American Sniper, Dunkirk, and countless others. The thought that “It felt like I was right back there again” brings me to tears.
I know I could never handle the magnitude of stress and the ethical/moral dilemma of being in the middle of war. Knowing that while the person on the other side of the line has no idea who I am, and what kind of person I am, they hate me so much and want me dead. Just because we believe different things. While reading American Sniper and talking with my close Veteran friends, you see that they are able to remove the emotion from the “job” as they call it. That enemy across the way is not human, they are a monster who is trying with all their might to hurt their immediate family, and wouldn’t you do anything to keep your family safe? All is fair in love and War.
We have been so sheltered in our American lives that we completely neglect the affects of this type of trauma on the human brain. We keep our heads down and try to take care of ourselves but what about them? What about the men and women who sacrificed all they had so we could have that freedom? Don’t they deserve some help? Some recognition? Some Justice!? They struggle to re-associate into the American way of life, and are turned away for not having “experience” in the corporate sector. These men and women have more life-experience than most of the CEO’s in corporate America. They are able to plan, execute, and succeed on a team to see the larger picture rather than being power-hungry, money driven hypocrites.
Think about it, the class of 2020 has never known a time in their lives that the USA was at peace. They have grown up in the modern war time – where even though it’s not happening all on home turf, it’s still happening, but easy to forget or gets thrown into the background.
Our Veterans deserve better – they deserve an advocate that fights for them and the same support (if not more) than they receive from their brothers/sisters in ranks. The next time you think of a Veteran – they may look like your grandfather, your parents, your siblings. Or they could look like a 24 year old kid fighting to figure life out. Be kind, be courteous and be helpful.
The biggest questions I have for the Veterans are “Honestly, how does it make you feel when someone says ‘Happy Veteran’s Day’ to you?”
Does it throw you back into that great or horrible moment thats burned into your brain? Does it make you think of the happiest or worst time of your life?
And then the follow up: How can we make it better? How can we show our appreciation?
Veterans are Veterans for the additional 364 days of the year – it’s best that we don’t forget that. You can support them every single day by visiting the Wounded Warrior Project, the Wounded Walk, or any of the other Veterans non-profits and donating time, support, or more.
So to all the Veterans out there, until I can make as big a difference as you have, all I can say is Thank You and promise to continue to fight to find a way to truly show my appreciation by making a positive change for everyone.