From My WindowIssue Date: November 5, 2020
A Chance to Honor Our Veterans
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
Veteran's Day is Wednesday, Nov. 11th, so I could have written this column next week. But I chose to do so this week for a specific reason.
Veteran's Day honors ALL Veterans, living or dead. (Memorial Day is specifically intended for those who died while on duty with the military.) That means any person who served in the Navy, Navy Reserves, Army, Army Reserves, Coast Guard and Reserves, Air National Guard, Marine Corps and Reserves, Air Force and Reserves. It honors those on active duty, those who have retired or gone on to civilian life, and those who have passed away. There is no more appropriate time to say "thank you for your service" to any of the millions of people, including those you know, who served the United States and you.
I think most often of the impact of World War II, because since my father was a combat veteran and ex-POW, I know that story best. But many of the things I know about the experience of my Dad and his family apply to any veteran.
Military service impacts the ENTIRE family. Moms and dads, spouses, children, and siblings miss their enlisted loved ones. They are not there at Thanksgiving, weddings, or Christmas. They may miss funerals and births. It's not "work and go home until it's time to work again" for most. Thank goodness for cell phones and e-mail which allow more communication for some (not all) but in the old days it may have been a monthly letter or telegram. My Grandfather Thibodeau was notified my dad was missing in action in Europe via a telegram, which we still have. I can only imagine my heart dropping into my shoes if I received such a message about my son or daughter.
The family may have to cope without the help of an important family member for many months at a time. Single parenting is hard, terribly hard. Single parenting plus the worry a spouse is at risk in times of hostility or risky missions is twice as hard. And even in peacetime, or stateside service, one never knows for sure when hostilities or outright war might occur, not to mention rouge terrorist attacks, or accidents due to storms, transport, or high-risk training or tasks.
We often overlook the contributions of our Coast Guard and National Guards teams who run toward the dangers of civil unrest, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Our Coast Guard saves hundreds of lives every year from pleasure boating, marine transport and refugee incidents and accidents along our vast inland and salt water coasts. They conduct search and rescue operations in nasty, dangerous weather when the rest of us may be asleep in our beds, unaware of the risks they are taking on behalf of a lost kayaker, commercial fishing boat or airplane ditching. Just this year, they've helped with peaceful demonstrations, civil unrest, served as extra staffing for Covid-ravaged poll worker shortages and, to my everlasting gratitude, Covid testing.
Sometimes when I thank a veteran for their service they are overly modest about accepting my thanks, explaining, "they didn't do much," or "weren't ever exposed to danger." I don't agree. "They also serve, who only stand and wait." (John Milton.) You entered the service not knowing what might be asked of you in the future, and for that, we do owe you our thanks and our gratitude.
I write this column in advance so that if you wish to, you can make it a point to recognize a veteran next week. For some that may be visiting a cemetery. For some, a heartfelt thanks to a spouse, father or daughter. But it can be something that takes a bit more time. Seek out a neighbor who is a vet and may be lonely due to Covid isolation. A phone call or mailed thank you might be very welcomed. A plate of cookies for someone you work with. Think of something you can do for someone locked away from the world (and hopefully, Covid,) in a nursing home or other care facility. Care facility lockdowns help save lives, but they take a toll on spirits of both residents AND staff. Make a donation to the U.S.O. (United Service Organization.) This group is a charitable foundation that serves all active military personnel with travel support, entertainment and care packages. You can reach out and touch a soldier, sailor, marine or other serviceperson you don't even know by writing a check.
There's a lot churning in our country as I write this " election results and the ravages of a pandemic wreaking havoc on our lives. Make time to do something positive, and don't let the distractions cause this day to pass by unmarked. If nothing else, pray for the safety of all those on watch protecting us. They deserve no less, even those who "only stand and wait."
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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