Today, I began writing a Facebook post expressing gratitude to all of the men and women who are serving or who have served our country in the name of peace, safety, and freedom. It turned in to a couple of paragraphs of ramblings about my feelings about things (which is why I don't typically write Facebook posts). Today, however, I'm feeling slightly more convicted than usual, so read on if you'd like to hear about how I used to never think about Veteran's Day, and now have very strong feelings about it.
Until pretty recently, my idea of a veteran was an elderly person like my grandpa, who showed up at my school in their fancy uniforms once a year and gave us the rare gift of an afternoon off of classes. We said the pledge of allegiance, sang some songs, and went about our business as usual until the following November. Sound familiar?
It wasn't until I met my husband that I really even realized that veterans were young once too. It sounds like a vapid thing to say now, but I hear a lot of people saying really crazy shit about how we don't owe anything to our Veterans and I used to think maybe they're right, but now I think they are very very wrong.
There is a solid four year gap of time where I was in college and my husband (and many, many others) was splitting his time between Italy and Afghanistan. If I mention a song or a television show or a funny youtube clip that I "discovered" sometime between 2006-2010, he likely has no idea what I'm talking about.
While most of us were off doing stupid shit on the precipise of our young adulthood, that we would be embarrassed about if someone brought up again ever, let alone once a year, people like him, my brother-in-law, my Grandpas and Uncles (and your grandmas and aunts, and friends and cousins...) were out literally just trying not to do die. Like, for months at a time. THIS BLOWS MY MIND! I have literally never been in a situation where I woke up in the morning (or middle of the night, or maybe just didn't sleep for weeks at a time) and my main goal was just NOT DYING. Way too many people have died, innocent civilians included, and that tragic truth is why we "celebrate" Memorial Day in this country.
Veterans Day, on the other hand, is for those lucky guys and gals who made it home alive, and we demand of them to not ony be grateful for our gratitude, but to go back to acting just as if they weren't just in a foreign country trying really hard not to die. So, there's that.
Also, THEY WERE SO YOUNG! This is a super key point in Veterans Day that we seem to be overlooking. The majority of folks who join the military are 18 years old. EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD! I was living in a dorm, and someone was still making me three meals and day and cleaning my room when I was 18 years and old (and, let's be honest, up until I was 22, but that's beside the point). They were missing out on stupid dance parties and celebrating their birthdays and having normal relationships with other people so that we could sit at home or at school or wherever, complaining about literally anything that we had to do just because we had nothing better to be doing. I did not think about how lucky I was (and am) to not be living in a war torn country AT ALL. Did you? Do you now? When was the last time you thought about it? Just curious...
There are still (arguably, too many) young people all over the world risking their lives for things you and I take for gratend. Things that they (and possibly you and I) do not even understand. Maybe it doesn't make sense. Maybe it never made sense. However, I encourage you to think of yourself at that age, and how much you were not constantly risking your life for the safety of others.
Regardless of whatever beliefs you hold, you have some very important people to thank for your freedom to do so openly. I encourage you to do so. (I see you, people posting about how freedom is all an illusion in this country, and highly encourage you to spend some time in some select Middle Eastern and Asian countries to gain some perspective).
I don't say this to shame anyone. We have a very long way to go in this country on all fronts. I simply encourage you to meditate a little deeper on the brevity of the situation because I literally never did until about four years ago, and I think that's super shitty. Today is about gratitude, and we have a lot to be grateful for, and many people deserving of our thanks.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your service. I hope someone gives you a hug or some free tacos or something today because... shit. It's the least (like, the very least) we can do.