My father was drafted into the United States Army in 1970. He was a private first class stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, formerly known as Fort Lewis in Washington State My father did not serve in the Vietnam War, but during the time period of the conflict. He remained stateside while so many of his brothers fought, some losing their lives, in the horrible war. He doesn’t talk much about that time, like most veterans, but he did tell me that he rarely left base.
When you leave the base, you are required to dress in your U.S. Army uniform. During that time period, millions of Americans projected their disgust at our involvement in the war onto the troops instead of the government who was responsible for putting us in Vietnam. Service members were verbally and physically assaulted and disrespected. My dad told me the one time he chose to leave the base, while wearing his uniform, he was pelleted with tomatoes. From that point forward, he never left the base.
What a shame that my father, although being drafted, chose to maintain a level of respect and dignity for the role thrust upon him. He chose to hold himself to a higher standard and to serve his country, while so many others burned their draft cards and spit on him. I admire my dad for his sacrifice for our country and I’m grateful he didn’t see a minute of the horrors of war. I may not be here today had he fought in Vietnam.
On this Veterans Day, my oldest has begun to ask me questions. He was taught about Veterans Day while in school today. When I picked him up, he asked me questions about it. I told him who the day was for, including his Pop.
“Pop, was in the army?” he asked.
“Yes, he was. Mimi still has his uniform. Maybe you can see it one day,” I replied.
“Maybe I can be in the army like Pop,” he said.
“Maybe,” I answered.
My husband and I have thought about if the day should come when one or both of our boys tell us they want to serve their country in the armed forces. How would we react? What would we say? I don’t know. I’d like to say that I would be happy, because it would be what makes them happy, but I don’t know if that would be truthful. I would be proud of them, just like I’ll be proud of them regardless of the life they choose for themselves. I will admire them for making a sacrifice I could have made in my life, but was too selfish to do. And I will love them for their courage and valor.
On this day, let’s take the opportunity to thank a veteran, to put ourselves in their shoes, even if only for a moment. Think about their sacrifices and those of their families when you sit down and read this blog. You and I have a luxury and for that we should be grateful to our veterans.
There’s an organization I’m a huge fan and supporter of. It’s called the Wounded Warrior Project. Please take this day, if no other, to visit the website and make a donation to help one of our many current veterans coming home. And if you see a veteran at any point, take the time to shake their hand and thank them for their service.