by: Tom Cuba, P.h.D.
Today is the day we honor our military veterans. We call it Veterans’ Day. Some people don’t use the apostrophe, but I don’t care. I do. It all started off with the declaration that WWI would officially end on the 11th day of the 11th month and that day was celebrated as the end of the war to end all wars. Then it was designated as Armistice Day. Then we had another war with two days to celebrate: VE (Victory in Europe) and VJ (Victory over Japan). It all became much to complicated, so we eventually settled on Veterans’ Day.
According to Merriam-Webster, a person must have had “long service” to be considered a military veteran and that person must also be a former, not active, member of the service. I can tell you from personal experience that one achieves ‘long service’ during boot camp: Longest 16 weeks ever. In everyday use, though almost anyone who wasn’t discharged by a Courts Martial is considered a veteran, and that includes active duty people as well.
Way too many people don’t make a distinction between Veterans’ Day and Memorial day, but trust me, they’re different. These people talk about our veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice. For starters, no one decides to make that ultimate sacrifice as the ship is sinking or as his fighter is falling apart at twenty-thousand feet or in the middle of a barrage of incoming rocket-fire. No. Every soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and guardsman gives his life to his country when he signs his enlistment papers. If he survives, he gets it back.
Now, I know I didn’t use the politically correct gender-neutral pronouns in that statement, but I don’t really care. We all know that the members of our fairer gender do their part, in fact often-times, they do much more than their part.
Something else to know about our servicemen and women. In defense and service to a nation that values personal freedom about all else, the service member voluntarily relinquishes most of those freedoms. The drill instructor decides when you get up, what and where you eat, and even when you can use the head. That’s the can, for you ground-pounders. And no one decides to go to a war zone. Nope, there’s some guy in Bupers (Bureau of Personnel) who more or less randomly decides that this soldier is going to the battlefield and that one is going to a recruiting office in Kansas.
So, today we honor our living service members. You will see people walking around saying “Thank you for your service.” When you do, ask yourself, “Is that the best we can do?”
Remember, that while in the service, whether in combat or not, our veterans knew that if things get messy, there will be people who will send reinforcements, extraction teams, air cover, or supplies. Whatever is needed is on the way. The poet Milton put it this way: They also serve who only stand and wait. Like the clerk filling out paperwork to send more ammunition to the front or more avgas to the carrier, the mission cannot be accomplished without those who are not in the combat zone.
And so, it is now. During the course of their tour of duty, our veterans have become accustomed to the support offered by those desk-jockeys.
Once discharged, these veterans often find themselves alone in a civilian world where many people may not understand. Some feel what many felt after the Vietnam conflict. They can feel not only alone, but rejected. I tell you that these men and women need our support more than ever. The suicide rate among our veterans is much too high. Hell, one a year is too high. Sure, there is a suicide prevention hot-line, but do our veterans know the number or when to call? Do they feel so alone that they don’t care if they call or not?
So, this year, instead of a passing “Thank you,” take the time to get to know the veteran who sits at the next desk where you work, or who drives the tractor on the next farm, or who waits the table where you go out to eat. Don’t thank a veteran; befriend one. Let them know that you will be there for them just as they were there for you.
Raised a simple Missouri farm boy, Tom managed to attend a British Prep School before commencing a college career that would culminate in a Doctorate Degree in Marine Ecology. He also served as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy, and as a scoutmaster, SCUBA instructor, Wilderness Survival Instructor, and Firearms Instructor.
Tom has worked as an ecologist in both government and private practice, as well as a freelance nature photographer and computer programmer.
Now, a father and grandfather, Tom offers life lessons in the form of stories about the challenges people face and conquer as well as socio-political essays. To that end, his first lesson is always his favorite quote. “Failure is the whetstone of success.” ~ T. Leith Rettie, 1884.
You can read more from Tom on his site by clicking here.