It’s as true today as ever. Thank you and a holiday is not nearly enough to compensate veterans for what they’ve done for all of us.
It’s hard to imagine a circumstance where “thank you” is both so well deserved and so utterly inadequate at the same time. Except when it comes to veterans, the courageous, selfless souls who fight our wars. Agree or not, ready or not, part of their own life plan or not, they go.
I had uncles and a father in law who were such men, a father served back home when he was young, as all men in those days did. It’s hard to imagine how they did it. How scared they must have been.They’d lived in one place their whole lives and were briefly trained before being sent to places as far-flung from home as could be.
What I know of my uncle’s story I learned from others. He was a radio man in the Air Force whose plane was shot down somewhere over Italy. My uncle parachuted from the plane, got stuck in a tree as he landed and watched as Italian civilians ran toward him screaming words he didn’t understand. Turns out they were farmers who had seen him and got him hidden away before he could be found. He stayed hidden for many months until the family was able to arrange for him to be smuggled out of the country and back to safety. I don’t know names or dates, but I’m grateful to those people every day.
The pilot and copilot were captured and met an unknown fate. Too many of those boys (and they were boys) never come back. The ones who did, like my uncle, never talked about the war, would avoid questions about it in a good-natured but steadfast effort to keep from talking about those days. Perhaps even to share such terrors, to experience them as a memory in safety was too much.
For those who make this type of sacrifice, who come home and are never the same, we owe more than a “thank you” and a November holiday. From what I’ve seen we don’t treat these brave men and women nearly as well as they deserve. Scandals at the VA hospitals have shown that well enough.
Yet on this holiday the politicians will speak about brave sacrifices wearing $1,000 suits adorned with the obligatory flag pin. Wreaths will be laid. Flags will fly and bands will play while those who have never sacrificed anything (myself included) will offer the 2 lamest words there are, “Thank you.”
Not nearly enough. Any veteran should never pay for a meal at any restaurant all 365 days of the year, a drink at any bar or coffee place, their health care or continuing education. No income taxes for life. They should be treated every day like the special people they are. More than an annual (heartfelt or not) “thank you” these people deserve the highest honor, the deepest respect and anything else they want for the rest of their days.
Because without them and the sacrifices made, we would all be toast.