It’s the eleventh day of my NaBloPoMo, friends, and today I’ve decided to write about Veterans. Sexy topic, much? Don’t miss yesterday’s post, where I took a deep and emotional dive on my relationship with my dad.
Today is Veterans Day in the U.S.
When I was a little kid, Veterans Day was just a day off from school, and I gave it no more thought than that. And I am ashamed to admit that as a juvenile, I was a bit of a jerk towards veterans, or at least the idea of them. I was a liberal, hotheaded little teenager when the U.S. first engaged in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I just couldn’t appreciate the difference between supporting the troops and supporting the war.
I remember one time I was riding a Greyhound bus back up to college after visiting my ex-boyfriend, and I found myself sitting next to a guy who was in the Army. And I was a bona fide asshole to him, basically telling him that I wasn’t impressed with his being in the Army because I didn’t support the war. Major props to that guy for not punching me right in my spoiled little face.
I wish I could say that I came to an academic enlightenment about appreciating veterans because it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, I’m not that good of a person. Instead, I only came around when things became personal for me.
You see, when I first introduced Hubby in my inaugural post, and then later dished on his annoying toilet habits, I left out kind of an important detail. Hubby is a veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
As I’ve mentioned, Hubby and I met in high school, but we weren’t dating at the time. When we reconnected on AOL (R.I.P.) a few years later, I couldn’t believe my ears when Hubby told me that he was currently in Iraq, at war. I honestly thought he was joking for several days. As we chatted day in and day out, things started to get more romantic, and before I knew it I was officially dating a man in uniform.
When Hubby came back from Iraq, he visited me at college and we started dating in the flesh. Which, I gotta tell you, was way better than dating over Instant Messenger. But he was only stateside for a bit before he was shipped back out to Afghanistan for another year of deployment. And my god was it agonizing sitting at home, hoping he was ok, wondering when I would hear from him next. So shout out to all of those who stayed strong at home while their significant others, children, parents, siblings, and friends volunteered overseas.
It’s embarrassing to admit that it wasn’t until I started dating Hubby that I realized my vitriol for military members was shameful and incredibly misplaced. That whether we agreed on politics or not (and sometimes we actually did agree), these were people who were doing something that I would never in a million years be brave enough to do. And that they were volunteering to do it.* It actually makes me teary-eyed with pride. How could I ever have disrespected this population, regardless of their motivation for joining?
There is no denying that our veterans have made unbelievable sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice, too many times. And it is heartbreaking that, after everything they’ve done, so many of them struggle with reintegrating into society after deployment. Something like 40,000 U.S. veterans are homeless on any given night. Somewhere between 11-20% of U.S. veterans struggle with PTSD in any given year. And something like 22 U.S. veterans take their own lives on any given day. Twenty-two. That is a staggeringly sad number.
In light of all of these sacrifices, both overseas and back at home, I just want to say Thank You to everyone who has served. And sorry for taking so long to come around.
Until next time,
*To be clear, I have no less respect for those who served in the past without volunteering.