Ya know…everyone is taking a moment to remember our fallen heroes – the men and women who rush into the situation that everyone else is rushing to get out of. Our Firefighters, our Police force, and our nation’s protectors are the reason for this holiday. We thank them and then have a burger or dog in their honor. We go to big sales and buy stuff. We sleep late on our day off. For most people it is just a passing thought…”Thanks for all you do…pass the potato salad”.
My dad is a retired Navy Veteran, my husband is a retired Navy Veteran, my core base of friends are retired military people. But they weren't always retired, and in order to retire they had to make it to the requisite twenty years of service. For twenty years they succeeded in not getting killed and not killing themselves. For twenty years they left their families and went to the most God Forsaken regions of the world. They missed births, first steps, car accidents, proms, graduations, and deaths of close friends and relatives. They put their family schedules in chaos because no one ever knows when they are coming or going – everything stops when a military member comes home or leaves. They put their lives in jeopardy to help faceless, nameless, people who hate them. Then they return home to a broken system that supplies them with inferior and inadequate healthcare. When it is looked at in that light, why on earth would anyone join?
People join the military for many different reasons, they hold on until retirement for many different reasons, but underneath all the various reasons for staying is the common thread of honor and pride. Honor in the belief of a country, pride in service and a job performed to the best of one’s abilities. The rewards for this thankless job come in many forms – lifelong friends, recognition, etc, but the most touching reward is just the acknowledgement of what is being sacrificed for this global protection. A heartfelt “Thank you” is the most precious gift that can be given to them. A simple Thank You is all we can give because there is no gift big enough to reward them for what they give up for us.
For the family members of our fallen military, there is no thank you big enough to fill the hole left by the death…but many little ones help fill a fraction of the void. The military people you encounter every day don’t expect thanks or accolades, they just see a job that needs to be done – whether it is on the front lines or in support of those fighting. They get up and they do their job to the best of their abilities.
These are the people we need to idolize – the widow(er) who gets up every day without their soul mate, the funny old guy working at Home Depot who saw action overseas, the quiet woman in the office who never speaks of her heroic actions in the line of fire. These people gave huge chunks of their lives that will never be given back to them. At retirement or discharge, no one ever hands them a shoe box with their years back - They are gone forever. What they missed or lost will never be returned to them…and they did it for us. They did it to ensure our freedom and our chance of a better life.
So rather than the sales, or the food or the ‘free’ day off, let’s focus on what is being given, gladly, to maintain our lifestyle. Lets give more than a Moment of Silence or a Thought to our Troops. Let’s seek someone out and thank them for giving up a chunk of their lives for ours.