Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Thank A Veteran?

by Carl C
spoken Nov. 13, 2011

Welcome to my church. I signed the book here 20 years ago.

Will all military veterans please stand.    
Let us honor those among us who were and are willing to lay their lives on the line for the rest of us.

My name is Carl C and I served as a United States Marine Corps Rifleman, mostly in the mountains of the Demilitarized Zone, Vietnam for almost a year, between July 1968 and May of 1969. I joined the Marines in 1967 and was put on the Permanently Disabled Retired List in September 1969.

A young Veteran of our recent WARS who was being interviewed on PBS last Friday night was talking about how great it was to be in uniform when people would come up shake his hand and thank him for serving his country. Now, out of uniform, the armed service and homeless, all he gets is: oh you were in the military, that's nice, that will be 5.95 for that coffee.

What it means to be a veteran to a lot of people is once you take off your uniform, you are just another American living in a world without structure or respect while often carrying a mindful of experiences that have no place in civilized society. There is no use for the many skills that are second nature to the military person. Once you are out of uniform you have to learn to channel this energy into something useful.  

I can't speak for other veterans whose experiences are different from mine.  I was catastrophically wounded. It changed what was attainable for me and what wasn't. I went from being a physically fit 19 year old to being a mutilated 20 year old. I had to depend on others to do the smallest things for me. I had to become independent again, by learning such things as how to walk with crutches, climb up and go down stairs without falling or injuring my already damaged body and how to to drive a car with my left foot and left hand.  

Catastrophic injuries are very common for the veterans of our latest wars.

I don't know the answer to help these veterans. I don't see what is out there for them as far as opportunities are concerned. A career and or educational goals can often go a long way in keeping the effects of PTSD at a manageable level. But if the past is a predictor of the future, our Congressman and Senators will continue to cut and nibble away at our hard earned compensation and benefits for military veterans.  

A thank you is real nice, but these veterans need more than a thank you.  So if you have an opportunity to help a veteran in any way to show your appreciation, please do so.

I will say though, it is nice to be thanked and this is something we can all do - thank a veteran. It is the least any of us can do and it always makes my day when I am thanked.

We stopped at our favorite place to eat in Metter, GA on our way home on Veterans Day after visiting with my son on his birthday, November 10th,. which by the way, he shares with the United States Marine Corps. Taped to the door of the restaurant was a sign that said "free buffet for veterans." Some chain restaurants offer a limited free menu on Veterans Day, but at Bevricks, everything was free. This was a nice surprise; I was going to eat there anyway.  It wasn't cheap for the restaurant. Lots of veterans were eating there. Their tables were full of veterans. It was a great gesture and made me feel appreciated. They even took my picture and said they would post it on Facebook. This unexpected free meal is something I won't forget. 

I usually go to a local cemetery to attend a memorial service on Veterans Day. The services are nice and it is great to be thanked, but our lives were changed irrevocably by our service every single day and alters the way we see the world.  I see Memorial Day as the day to honor the dead and November 11th as the day to honor our living veterans.  

No matter how we might feel about our country's policies, most people join the military with honorable intentions to protect the common good of all of us. Let's keep these veterans in our thoughts all year long, not just on a designated day in November. And yes, a thank you goes a long way in honoring their sacrifices any day of the year.

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