WASHINGTON — My daughter came home from school the other day and told me she had learned about Veterans’ Day in class.
“I told the teacher my mom is a veteran,” she said proudly.
Her words touched me. I was thrilled that she had remembered my service and proud that she felt the need to share it. I separated from the active-duty Air Force after eight years of service nearly six years ago, and have long since put away my old uniforms and photo albums.
Still, my pride at having served is as strong as ever. I loved being a part of something so much bigger than myself, and still miss the camaraderie and deep friendships a military lifestyle fosters.
And I feel a deep sense of pride to think I’m tied in some way to other veterans, particularly after this past decade of war.
Today, the nation celebrates Veterans’ Day, a day set aside to honor American veterans throughout history for their service and sacrifice.
Only a fraction of Americans choose to serve, but their sacrifice is anything but small. Our servicemembers put themselves in harm’s way –- some paying the ultimate sacrifice — so we can go to bed each night in a free nation. And they’ve been doing so since the birth of our nation.
Our most recent veterans particularly need our support. They served with honor and valor, but many move on with the visible and invisible wounds of war.
In a recent speech, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that many servicemembers and their families have endured five yearlong or up to 25 shorter deployments since 2003.
“From the everyday sacrifices of missed birthdays, soccer games and special moments each family cherishes, to the physical and psychological repercussions attached to the post-combat experience, these are lives forever changed,” Mullen said.
As servicemembers transition out of the military and into other endeavors, they need our support just as much as those who currently serve.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, often speak of the need to embrace our military families in our communities and work places. That extends also to our veterans and their families.
Take time today to thank veterans for their service, whether they served decades ago in World War II or last year in Iraq. And extend your support to them at all times of the year. Together, we can let our veterans know they are appreciated, and that their service and sacrifice never will be forgotten.
To read about some of the heroic men and women who have served the nation, visit the American Forces Press Service Web Special Report: “Veterans’ Reflections.” Stories will be posted about veterans from World War II, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War throughout the month of November.
To comment on this blog, or read other posts, visit the Family Matters website.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)