Woke up this morning and did some quick math. I realized most of the men in my life have served in the military.
My paternal grandfather (above left) served in the Navy. He passed away a few months before I was born. My step-grandfather, who entered my life when I was four, served in the Army. My maternal grandfather (above right) served in the Navy.
My father-in-law served in the Army. My father served in the Army National Guard. My brother served in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, signing up at 17 and enduring two deployments in Iraq.
All this math had my mind reeling.
Service of the Veterans in my family spans three generations and over 70 plus years.
I have always understood and celebrated the real purposes of Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I believe I say “thank you” every time I meet a Vet – sometimes embarrassing a person I have known for years when I find out they have served. I know the holidays are not about days off work, BBQ, or parades…but maybe it took me doing the math – the cold hard numbers – for me to realize a different story.
What if I wasn’t lucky enough to have these men serve and return to me? What if the men and women serving next to my Veterans hadn’t helped them, made them laugh, befriended them, and protected them?
What if my Veterans hadn’t returned to me…what would I have missed?
Would I be confident? Know how to handle people from diverse backgrounds? Know how to be patient? How to teach? How to trust myself?
Specially, without these men, I might not know how to water ski, pump the air out of a brake line, throw a newspaper, ace an interview, stand up for myself, mix a CC and seven, act properly at a grown-up brunch, or not to jump into a hot tub. Would I know a bed is a “rack” or what “got your 6” really means?
Certain lessons from my Veterans originate from their military training – from mundane tasks like the proper way to fold a towel to understanding and leveraging the chain of command in the business world.
And sometimes (just sometimes), I am more patient than others, knowing that “hurry up and wait” is a motto in the service which seems to apply to daily life in NYC. I also know to eat, sit, and sleep when you have the chance, because you might not know when the opportunity to do so will happen again.
Would I know how to be sarcastic, sincere, curious, helpful, or dedicated? Maybe…I am surrounded by wonderful women, but these men helped teach me all these things and so much more.
That is what the math told me this morning: Without these Veterans shaping my life, I would have been a different person.
So, this Veterans Day, I say thank you to all who have served and I will try even harder to say thank you every single day.
My brother wears a bracelet that is engraved with the date of my birthday. When I first noticed it, I commented on the date. But, the bracelet is also engraved with the name of his friend, a fellow solider who died on the date of my birthday during their deployment. I don’t know what happened that day – and probably don’t want to know – but I am willing to guess that if my brother will wear his name, he was pretty important to my brother’s life.
I am overwhelmed by all the sacrifice and bravery for our freedoms. Tonight, I am celebrating that all my Veterans have returned to me and I am mourning all of those who stood next to them and did not make it back.
With this in mind, I logged on to Wounded Warriors and made a donation. Because I know at least one solider who is not returning to the Country he proudly served and won’t have the opportunity to teach the lessons he has learned to his children and grandchildren. The same types of lessons that have defined me as a person.
Based on the relationship he had with my brother, I know he was the kind of solider that would want the best for those that did make it back to their families.
God Bless America.
God Bless the Men and Women of our Armed Forces who serve around the world, sacrificing their lives, comforts, and safety for our Freedom to enjoy this wonderful Country.
And finally, God bless all the Men and Women of the Armed Forces who safely returned my Veterans to me.
Words do not exist to express my gratitude.