Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2017

Since they named this holiday for me, though people will be inclined to say to me, “Thank you for your service,” I want to say to them, “Thank you for my service.”

Naval Aircrewman Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Lanard, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron HSC-22 of USS Wasp carries evacuee off an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter following landfall of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica.  (As a former petty officer aboard two aircraft carriers, this picture strikes a particular chord in me.  It is so nice to see the Navy used this way.)

Setting aside the pride and glory stuff, and the notions of self-sacrifice, I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, for the opportunity to get an education without college, a career launch with several years of practical experience before hitting the civilian market (at least for those of us fortunate enough to have received a military education with a civilian equivalent), to get an indoctrination into leadership, responsibility, “followership,” and “teamship” (and other ships) that you generally don’t get in college or entry-level civilian jobs, travel opportunities that most people never get, cultural and ethnic workplace diversity unlike anywhere else, extra points on civil service exams and other economic and career advantages, Veterans’ Benefits costly to taxpayers, including low-cost or nearly free medical care for life (whether injured in military service or not), and sometimes get an opportunity to experience the pride, glory, respect and gratitude of the nation stuff.

So, as a vet, I’m pleased to say Happy Veteran’s Day TO YOU, and thank you for my service.

But I came home alive and healthy.  For those who don’t, we have yet to provide entirely adequately, yet to understand their needs fully, especially the psychological and family matters (ex-military families are “veterans,” too; they serve, too) , and we — or our elected “representatives” in political power who issue the orders — commit nothing less than war crimes in sending warriors into unjust and illegal wars and wars prolonged for greed and unwarranted political power.

One of the best things we can do to honor veterans is stop killing and maiming them for the wrong reasons.  I salute them and all who serve, served, or will serve.  I thank them for their service and for their sacrifices of kinds that only they know, and which vary widely among individuals, whether they are formally deemed a “casualty” or not.  There are military casualties of soul, in and out of combat zones, and silent, invisible heroic recoveries among them.  I salute those heroes as well as the ones who sustain outwardly obvious sacrifices.

Hug a vet today and ask, “What can I do for you, on this day set aside for you?”  You may be surprised at the humble replies, at the humorous ones, at the soulful and insightful ones, but there won’t be many self-serving ones.  It’s a day for them to remember serving you, and to refresh their commitment to continue serving as a citizen, but their answer to your question is contained in that hug.  You answered your own question.  Just love them, and be open to them and open to listen to anything they say today about being a veteran, including the silences.  Especially the silences.

If they say something like, “Thank you for my service,” or any expression of gratitude for their experience in the military or as a vet, take it seriously and reply, as someone just now did to me as I write this (in a pop-up message on my screen), “You’re welcome.”

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