Rhinelander soldier reports from Afghanistan
Editor’s note:the Star Journal has been publishing periodic articles from Staff Sgt. Rick Peterson of Rhinelander during his deployment to Afghanistan.
According to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veteran’s Day is, “A celebration to honor American Veterans for their patriotism, love of Country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, has been celebrated in one form or another since 1919.
What is the definition of a veteran? I consider a veteran to be anyone who has completed some form of Basic Training and has served in the United States Armed Forces, at home or abroad, in times of conflict or of peace, and has done so honorably. Approximately one percent of the population of the United States currently serves in the Armed Forces, or so I have been told by several General Officers and others delivering motivational speeches to the troops for one reason or another. My cursory research indicates that, currently, three quarters of a percent is a closer estimation. Whatever the number, it is a small portion of our population that has volunteered and has solemnly sworn to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; … bear true faith and allegiance to the same; … obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them], according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice…”
We who are veterans are considered by many to have made a sacrifice by volunteering our service to our country. While that may be true in many cases, and while many have given the ultimate sacrifice, it is my opinion that a large portion of the sacrifice experienced as a result of military service is borne by families and those close to the service member.
Recently I read an article entitled, “Stop Thanking Veterans for Their Service.” You can imagine that this piqued my curiosity. My first thoughts were that someone was bad-mouthing the military or had an axe to grind with some branch of service. After reading the body of that article though, I found myself agreeing with the general idea. The author, Ky Hunter, posited that the standard, “Thank you for your service,” sentiment that is daily offered to veterans is hollow, and that this obligatory expression of appreciation has become so commonplace that it no longer holds much meaning. While the words are certainly well-intended, the author points out that they have been so over-used they have become empty. Mr. Hunter theorized that, while we ought to be thankful, our thanks should not necessarily be for what any one military veteran has done in particular, it is for what they have allowed others to do as a result of their service.
The article suggested personalizing our thanks and offered examples such as, “Thank a veteran you were able to attend every one of your child’s sporting events, music recitals, spelling bees, and parent/teacher conferences.” Other examples that came to mind as I thought about this are, thank a veteran that you were able to choose how to spend your weekend. Thank a veteran that you were there to hug your spouse when he or she had a bad day. Thank a veteran that you’ve been able to choose your own career path without interruption. Thank a veteran that you were able to attend your child’s first day of Kindergarten, High School graduation, or first day of college.
I have personally been thanked for my service by more people than I can count. Each time it has happened to me I have appreciated the sentiment. I have had my coffee or meal paid for by an appreciative citizen. I have experienced a passenger in first class offering me their seat. These are genuine gestures of appreciation and I am grateful for them. Additionally, I have experienced returning home from overseas to a welcoming party in an airport. Words cannot describe the overwhelming emotion I experienced on those occasions. It is equally difficult to describe the feelings one experiences the day he or she finally returns home to family and friends and is showered with love and appreciation. I ask you to consider something more this Veteran’s Day: Who thanks the family members, friends, and co-workers of the returning soldier? Who shows appreciation for the long lonely nights, the extra workload, or for accepting the absence of Mom or Dad during so many important life events? Other than the veteran, I don’t believe many give these thoughts much consideration.
On Veteran’s Day, and every other day, appreciation for those who have volunteered their service is appropriate, no matter how you choose to express it. Thank a veteran. Thank them in any way that you see fit. In addition, whenever possible, thank the husband, wife, or child of that veteran as well. Thank them for THEIR sacrifice. Thank them for giving up important moments of THEIR lives so that others could experience their own memorable moments.