Veterans Day is one of those days that always makes me a bit uneasy. I find it much easier to thank my fellow veterans than I do accepting the same thanks from others…especially non-veterans.
My initial instinct is to correct people.
I want to say:
“I don’t deserve your thanks. I haven’t really earned it. I did my job. I got compensated for it. I knew it would be hard and demanding. I knew I would be away from my family for extended periods of time. I didn’t lose my life, or any limbs. To me, it was just my job for 24 years. It’s what I did.”
Sometimes it’s hard to get that kind of thanks and praise from people you don’t even know. “They must think I’m some kind of war hero or something.”
But, I’m not alone in feeling this way.
I just spoke to a fellow veteran named John Molstad this morning. I’ve been helping John determine if he is eligible for any VA benefits as a result of his mesothelioma diagnosis. I wished him a Happy Veterans Day too when I first reached him.
He thanked me for that but almost seemed surprised by it.
“The guys I feel gratitude towards are my fellow veterans who served in Korea and Vietnam, especially the guys that saw a lot of combat. We did our job but we were fortunate enough to not have anything live coming at us,” John replied. I totally get where he is coming from. “I really enjoyed my military service,” John continued, “especially my tour in Alaska where I learned to ski.”
John is speaking the truth.
John was in the Army in a Heavy Artillery unit but never saw combat. Like me, he served during a period of war, but never really came into harm’s way. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike getting thanked for my service. It’s just that it makes you feel like people are looking at you and feeling gratitude for trials and tribulations that you haven’t actually been through.
But it makes us feel good, myself included to reach out to my fellow vets and thank them, whatever their service looked like. Because the long and the short of it is that each one of us raised our hand and swore an oath to fight and defend our way of life, even if that meant going into harm’s way, and even if it meant risking life and limb.
Maybe today is the day to say thanks for having volunteered; for having the fortitude to take on a job that could have put you in harm’s way.
So, today, I want to thank all of my fellow veterans for having that willingness to put yourselves into harm’s way.
Even if you didn’t see any combat.
And even if it make you feel a little bit uneasy.