My dad served in the Air Force as a broadcaster and DJ for the Armed Forces Network for 25 years and retired when I was 19. Because of this, the only life I have really known is a nomadic one surrounded by other military-affiliated people who completely understood that way of life. In fact, my brother-in-law serves, many people who I have looked up to and who have influenced my life have served, and several of my high school classmates have all found careers in the Armed Services.
As you might imagine, it is actually quite foreign to me that there are people who don’t know a ton of military members. Seeing a swarm of people in BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) might catch your eye, and you wonder what they do exactly. (Side note: To this day, I can’t even see a picture of BDUs without being able to smell them. It’s very distinct, not great — like an odd combination of spray starch and sweat. And yet, for me, it’s strangely comforting.)
For those of you who fit into that category of not knowing many military members, it would probably be really easy to miss Veteran’s Day. Maybe you throw out a “thank you,” but it’s really just another day. While I completely understand that, hopefully I can provide you a look at the actual people that serve our country.
These men and women are currently being deployed for several months (often an understatement) and on a regular basis. It isn’t as though they get to check off a box saying, “Okay, I did that. Someone else’s turn,” because it will be their turn again in a year or so, sometimes less.
And being deployed isn’t fun tourist-y time, either. From my dad’s experience, you went to work, and when you got off, you could go work out or entertain yourself in the dorm-sized room you shared. A lot of down time with not a lot to do. This worked out pretty nicely for us because my dad went to Iraq around the time Skype became popular (yes, we’re talking the prehistoric MySpace days). So, we were able to set a pretty regular schedule in order to see and talk to him everyday. However, a lot of days we could only see and type due to extremely poor internet connections.
Now, let’s not forget our veterans’ families. Believe me, these are some of the toughest people you will ever meet. These families go through long separations, continuous moving and uprooting, constant worry for their loved one, and they do it as a solid unit, taking on each challenge as it comes. Military families are generally the tightest-knit because so often they are all they have. For me, moving was always pretty hard. I get attached to things easily, and it’s difficult for me to let them go. But what always made it easier was being able to come home to my siblings and my parents and still be completely myself and know that I belonged somewhere, even if it looked a little different.
Our veterans serve because they understand how important it is. Their families follow because they understand how important their support is. Let’s make sure to take the time to support them. I encourage you today to genuinely thank our Armed Forces. They deserve our gratitude and so much more.