Tomorrow is Veterans Day. As I’ve done before in previous years, I go out of my way to acknowledge the sacrifice and service those who have served in the military. It’s one of the few issues that transcends ideology, politics, and debate. Those who have served deserve our utmost admiration and respect.
There’s a personal element for me, as well. I have many close family members who have served in the United States Military. I have grandparents who served in World War II. I have an uncle who served in Vietnam. They know what it means to serve their country in times of war and peace.
I know it is often used as a platitude by politicians and pundits, supporting the troops. That doesn’t make it any less deserving of such support. I certainly offer my thanks and my respect to our veterans, especially on days like Veterans Day. I also encourage others to do so and to support various veterans charities.
In the past, I’ve donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. I strongly encourage others to do the same, donating to this or other veteran-supporting charities. On top of that, I’d like to share a quick story that was told to me a few years back by one of my uncles.
Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t reveal my uncle’s name or which branch he served. I’ll just state that he has been very involved in supporting veterans since he got out of the service many years ago. He’s actively involved with churches and organizations. He’s the kind of man who will go above and beyond for a fellow veteran.
This particular story he shared took place at a local church. For years, a group of World War II veterans would meet there around a certain date. They’d catch up, drink, and laugh in all the ways you’d expect of old friends. It was a tradition they all cherished.
However, in recent years, that group’s numbers have been dwindling. Even though millions served in World War II, there are only an estimated 300,000 left alive. That may sound like a lot, but in a small group like this, they noticed when many of their friends began dying. It got to a point where the group was small, so much so that there was little to catch up on.
This is where my uncle comes in. At one particular gathering at a church, he met up with this old guy wearing the distinct World War II veteran attire most recognize. He was sitting alone and not in the best shape, health-wise. He didn’t look sad, but you could tell he was among the last of the friends he served with.
My uncle, being the wonderful man he is, sat down and talked to the man. They got along well. In doing so, my uncle found out that this old man was the last surviving member of his platoon. They’d been close for many years, but now he was the last one. Given his age, it wouldn’t be long before his entire platoon joined the many others who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It struck my uncle because he knew that, once this man passed, too many of his stories would pass with him. That just couldn’t stand. My uncle sat with that man and just listened to him reminisce. I don’t know how long they chatted, but my uncle made it a point to hear his story, knowing those who could tell them were dwindling fast.
It’s a special kind of way to honor a veteran. You can help them in many ways, but I like to think just listening to them and their story goes a long way. War and combat has consumed entire generations. They leave lasting marks, including many scars.
That’s why it’s important to remember and honor them. There are memories worth preserving, full of lessons worth learning. Times may change. Warfare often changes with it. The one constant is the strength it takes to fight, serve, and sacrifice.
I hope this story from my uncle gets that point across. I also hope it inspires others to help and honor our veterans in their own special way.
Thank you and to all those who are serving now or have served, I hope you feel the love and support you deserve on Veterans Day this year.