Why do I Thank Veterans?
Every morning at 0630, a service member stands tall by rendering a salute to Reveille. What this means is that this individual understands the importance of recognizing the level of intensity they are about to face as a member of an elite force this day by honoring our nation’s colors. How this translates in relationship to my freedom is an on-going swearing of an oath taken at the processing center pledging to our nation to swear to protect our borders from our enemies foreign and domestic.
We Americans are a unique breed. We stand before our nation with democracy as our first responsibility to uphold and defend. When I entered into basic training in 1994, I knew full well my responsibility to this nation. We were at war with Somalia who was dragging our soldiers through their city streets who were my 10th Mountain Division brothers and sisters at Mogadishu.
After serving as a Spec Ops Commander’s RTO and M60 gunner on QRF in Port Au Prince during “Operation Uphold Democracy,” I was able to witness the return to power of Bertrand Aristide through the help of President Jimmy Carter. We survived a monsoon and developed a restore to order in a third world nation who has stuck with me for the rest of my life.
I was also a Battalion Executive Officer’s Driver to a West Point Human Factors Engineering Professor who tried to get me to re-enlist but decided to take up masonry instead. The Montgomery G.I. Bill gave me the financial backing to return to school and finish my apprenticeship. Fast-forward twenty-two years later, things are not so great. Although I have conquered the mountain and have climbed to glory at Truax to be a shining example of tenacity and bravery, I have had to overcome TBI and stigma from missing work to treat my condition. I am living proof we 10th Mountain fear no obstacle, especially a combative Jane Fonda progressive professor that disrespects construction workers, who do not hold a candle to the UW arts and sciences liberal arts transfer program according to her. We suck it up and move on.
But none of that compares to what our brave men and women have done to keep me in school. Long waits through appeals are the hardship veterans face. Denial, after denial, after denial, until finally one day the Veterans Administration awards them their combat fatigue service-connected claim that developed into complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A congressman who ignores them when they leave Building 22 at the William S. Middleton Hospital that still has not returned his call for over 24 months consecutive. I thank veterans because they are stuck dealing with neglect who are just trying to hold down a job who are harassed for using the VA.
I thank veterans for their loss. To truly know what it feels like to bear the burden of survivor’s guilt is the crux a person like me has to bear to wear the United States colors on their right shoulder to fulfill their oath and would do it all over again.
I mostly thank our veterans because of the funeral bugle call of Taps. I have been to Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day and am feeling goosebumps as I write. I try to recall the 22 in meditation, along with individuals like Matt Maupin who was captured in Iraq and tortured to death for our freedom. Thanking a veteran is the least I can do as a Service Officer for the American Legion who understands one thing.
We thank veterans for the crux they must carry. We thank veterans for the burden they face when they return home. But most of all, we thank veterans because we genuinely care that they live one more day and do not end up a statistic that almost happened to me. Thank you for Building 22, Kristin Bull Lyon for developing VA VITAL at Truax, and our auxillaries for all that you do. We are the benefactors from the hard work and dedication to keep our veterans transitioning who return home.