Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

As a product of the military, I've spent the past 26 years surrounded by some of the bravest men and women. I've learned firsthand the true meaning of words like patriotism, integrity, and valor. I witnessed sacrifice in the name of prosperity and freedom. I stand in awe of those who've served our Nation selflessly, and I'm forever humbled.

My dad served in the Air Force for over 20 years. For most of his career, he worked as an historian. He's a retired Chief that taught my sister and me the value in honoring our veterans by looking to both the past and the present. As a family, we walked the beaches of Normandy together. At such a young age, it was hard to process the scope of the historic events that took place there. When I look back, that trip was quite memorable. During those impressionable years, we learned what it meant to honor our veterans and why it's so important to never forget their service. I remember my dad instructing us to get out the dictionary, to look up the word, and to read the definition of veteran aloud. I won't forget that moment or the meaning ever.

Being a history buff, he may have thought that trips to historic spots in Europe would teach us the most about those that served and sacrificed. He might not know that he, himself, was the best tool for his daughters to fully comprehend what it means to be a veteran. He may not have battled on the front lines (thankfully), but he wore the uniform proudly. I never once heard the man complain about work. Instead, he viewed this chapter of his life a blessing and an honor.

One thing I've learned over the years is that each person's call to duty is quite different, but every service member is integral in supporting the safety of our freedom. It doesn't matter if you fly a desk (as my dad used to joke about his job) or you fly a C-17. Military jobs and missions may vary, but there's one thing every service member has in common -- courage and commitment. It's important that we honor the contributions they've made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world.

Awhile back, I watched an interview with Tom Brokaw (one of my absolute favorite human beings). He said that WWII united our country in an effort to save the world, and while deeply divided during Vietnam, the whole country was still very aware about what was happening. Mr. Brokaw believes that today's wars are not something the typical American thinks about every day. According to Tom, "Less than one percent of the American population is bearing 100 percent of the burden of battle."

The legendary newsman went on to pose the following questions...
Do you know someone fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan? How about a family in your town that has a loved one serving?
Brokaw says that if you can't say yes to one of these questions, then you don't really care about the war or the men and women who are fighting it. His biggest concern? People don't think about the sacrifices that brave soldiers and their families are making for freedom. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the longest in U.S. history. According to Mr. Brokaw, it's not just the length of time that has made these current wars different than past ones -- it's our country's level of engagement.
"I, as a political reporter, believe very strongly that this democratic republic cannot have something that involves our blood and treasure assigned to only a very small part of our population, and nothing else is asked of the rest of us. That's not just unjust. In a way, it's immoral."
Mr. Brokaw says that we all have to "re-enlist as citizens" by raising our consciousness about the wars -- to think about the men and women who are fighting every day and losing their lives -- and also to do something about it. How? Stay abreast with current events. Volunteer. Visit United We Serve. Take the time to shake the hand of a veteran and say "Thank You." As important as it is to act, it's just as imperative to reflect. In fact, why don't you go ahead and forgo an episode of trash reality TV, 15 minutes wasted on Facebook, or online retail therapy, and watch this 60 Minutes segment about wounded warriors and Operation Proper Exit. I guarantee that you'll be left speechless and humbled by these brave men and women. However you feel about war and its appropriateness, it's important that we remember to honor those that have served and serve today.
A special thanks to family and friends who have served and currently serve in our nation's military.
I'm so very proud to say that I know you!

With great humility and gratitude,
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  1. Well said, Ashley. As the daughter of a veteran, your words touched me. As an American, I'm moved. Thanks for this!

  2. Thank you to your dad and Nick and all those who serve!

  3. My Dear Ash,
    You are articulate, passionate, and a true patriot. Yes, dictionaries are powerful tools and I remember many occassions when you and Aub had to look stuff up!
    Your father may claim that he flew a desk, but in reality he flew the flag of freedom...and let's not forget your mom, she held the pole.
    The FLAG pole... :)
    Love and hugs,

  4. Well said, Ashley. As you probably remember, my dad is a dentist in the USAF, and I think that many people forget the sacrifices that people in the military who "fly desks" make. There is just something about veterans that makes me smile. Maybe it's the uniform and the memory of that pilot that I had a HUGE crush on in 8th grade who lived in our building. I am so proud to be the part of a military family, as you obviously are as well. Anyway, thanks what what YOU do as a military wife!

    P.S. Tom Brokaw...I remember yelling his name and waving to him when we went to Spangdahlem to see President Clinton. Love that guy.

  5. Thanks for the sweet words, ladies! It's a topic that hits close to home for a lot of us. I just wish more people would have blogged about it. I guess I felt it needed to be discussed, and I'm glad that I wrote about it. In a way, it was therapeutic and an opportunity to tell my dad what his service means to me. There are so many brave heroes and she-roes out there!

    Nell, your comment made me giggle! I had to share it with my mom and dad. It was so YOU that we all smiled and laughed. You're right, the spouses deserve some credit too! I always looked at you and my mom, among others, with great pride and respect. You set the bar high:) Miss you!!

    Faye, I'm so happy you mentioned your pilot crush. I've never forgotten that! The whole flight suit thing is overrated. Ha ha! I'm so glad we have memories of seeing Tom Brokaw (and Bill Clinton) when they visited Spangdahlem. It's definitely one of my favorites!!

  6. You might not be familiar with it, but there is a book called "The Wall" by Eve Bunting. It's a story about a little boy visiting the Vietnam Memorial with his dad in search of their Grandpa's name. It's a beautiful story, and I read it to my kids on Friday. Afterwards, each of my students had a name to share of someone is (or has) serving in the armed forces. It was a great moment in 5th grade!!

  7. I'll have to tell my mom about that book, too! What a great idea, Jordon:) It's so neat that you were able to facilitate such a special moment for your students. You're such a great teacher! You should be proud of yourself.