Today is Veteran’s Day. United States President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919 by saying, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
Today is an important day to reflect and honor those who have fought bravely to secure the freedoms we hold dear to us. Yet words seem insignificant for the true sacrifice made by our veterans. How do we adequately thank the men and women who gave so much for us?
Today I will take time to remember my grandfather who was a Colonel in the Air Force, and not only fought in WWII, but also helped the younger generation of Vietnam Veterans as they returned from the war. At his funeral, one of my father’s friends found me and shared how my grandfather took him for his first flight after he returned from his last tour in Vietnam. This family friend was traumatized and at a loss for how to return to his life. My grandfather told him that the only way to move forward was to get back into the pilot’s seat and fly through it. This family friend was forever grateful for the mentorship my grandfather provided and said it was the key factor that helped him to assimilate back into his life after the war.
Today I will remember the year that my step-father reconnected with one of his closest friends from Vietnam. I remember waking up to my step-father crying out from the nightmares that started as he and his friend reminisced about what they experienced. I will never forget the hard-fought tears as he told me about an air and ground raid when he was five minutes behind his unit, because he had gone to bed while they stayed up playing cards. When he ran out of his tent, he stumbled over the bodies of the other five men who he was just playing cards with. He was the only one who survived, and it was just by chance that he had gone to bed twenty minutes before the raid.
Today we humbly remember how the lives of our veterans and their families were forever changed because they gave their time and sometimes, their lives, to protect our country. The stories we hold in our memory are important to share so that we never forget just what it means to be a veteran.
Today we say thank you. Thank you for your time, your service, for the challenges you faced as you returned. Thank you for the support you have given to other veterans and their families. Thank you for the opportunity we have today because of your sacrifice.