Veterans Day: “Well, we just did what we had to do, sweetheart.”

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It’s Veterans’ Day here in the States, the day dedicated to honouring and thanking those who’ve served in our nation’s uniform—though of course as the granddaughter (WWII, USN) and niece (one during Vietnam and another’s 20 years in the USAF, including Iraq) of men who’ve served, I think every day should be one on which we honour and thank these men and women. It’s difficult for me to explain how much America’s military means to me; I was raised in an (obviously) very patriotic family, cutting my teeth on stories of heroism and astounding self-sacrifice for people those who’ve served will never know. That we lost Grandpa just days before last year’s Veterans Day actually seems to make it a little more difficult right now.

One thing that will, however, always stick with me, is the second-to-last Veterans’ Day thank you (and chit-chat, of course) call I made to Grandpa. I called him frequently, but always made a point of calling him on Veterans’ Day, to say thank you, but this call I remember so clearly—even the very street I was walking up with Ben as Grandpa and I chatted.

He seemed to know what was coming, and tried to get off the phone by claiming garden tidying before I could say thanks, which he did about every year. Oh, Grandpa! I managed to get it out anyhow (Irish tenacity from Mom’s side and general bullheadedness directly from Grandpa make a useful combination at times). There was a pause, and then Grandpa said, implying yet again that no thank you was necessary though he knew they’d keep coming, “Well, we just did what we had to do, sweetheart.”

We just did what we had to do. 

To the members of our military, that’s exactly it. They see a nation, principles, and people they love, and recognizing the threats in our world, they knowingly sign a blank check over to it all. They began doing so in the 1770s and do so even today, young men and women of unusual and special character quietly walking into recruiting stations across the nation. Surely, some do so to improve their situation in life, but they choose the military—service—instead of the countless other things they could do, and to me, that speaks volumes about some spark of something special within them.

Most of them don’t expect a thing from us, not even a thank you. Many become downright bashful about the whole thing and others, like Grandpa, do their best to gruffly deny they’ve done anything worth notice, but I say…Oh, go ahead and embarrass them anyhow.

Shake their hand and say thank you. Buy them a cup of coffee. Surreptitiously tell your waitress you want to pay their check without them knowing who did it, or secretly send a gift card over via the supermarket manager. It doesn’t even need to be a lot of money if you can’t afford it—I think they understand, and they’ll certainly appreciate the fact that someone took notice and wanted to show appreciation.

Point them out to your child as someone to look up to, respect, and emulate.

So thank you. If you’ve served, I thank you. If your child has served or is serving, thank you for instilling pride of country and the willingness to sacrifice all into them.

Happy Veterans Day, and I hope that all of us make a point of promising this day to every day pray for and thank and bless however we can the men and women who’ve worn this nation’s uniform.

God bless them all, and God bless America.

Memorial Day 2007: Thank You

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2 thoughts on “Veterans Day: “Well, we just did what we had to do, sweetheart.”

  1. Beautifully said, Jen. My husband is a U.S. Army veteran of the first Gulf War and he, too, doesn’t think he needs to hear the “thank you” stuff – but I tell him “thank you” anyway. (Though I did bow to his wishes and not put a service pic of him for my Facebook profile pic!).

    Melissa Marsh

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