One Veteran's View
By Jim Kuiken
Veterans Day. What is that all about? “Veterans Day is an official United States federal holidaythat is observed annually on November 11, honoring people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, also known as veterans.” (Wikipedia)
But why do we honor veterans? I’m not going to go into all the whys and wherefores, history or national intent. I’m going to tell you about my Veterans Day.
3 of his 4 brothers also served in the military (Henry and Dick - Army Air Corps / Air Force, and Bob - Navy). They were veterans.
His father, my grandfather (Henry) – an immigrant, served his new country in the Army during WWI, and in the Navy in WWII. A veteran.
I come from a family with a history of service to our nation. My other grandfather (Andy) on my mother’s side, was not a veteran, but he also served, in a civilian (intelligence) capacity during WWII. Yeah, that’s great Kuiken. You’re a veteran. So were generations of your family before you. So what? You chose that life, what does that have to do with anyone else?
We already know what Veterans Day is, and there are a lot of folks that are talking about honoring our veterans, and what this day means to our nation. I’m not going to reach that far…I’m just going to tell you what this day is to me.
My Veterans Day.
As I mentioned, I served in multiple wars, operations and conflicts…but this isn’t about me. It’s about the others.
I remember the names, the faces, and the stupid $#!+ we pulled together. There was a deep and abiding bond of friendship we shared as we worked hard together, played pranks on each other, got to know each other’s lives, friends and families – both from meeting them, and from talking about them “back home” when we were deployed somewhere. I had lots of friends over the years.
But what I remember most is when those bonds of friendship were put to the test, forged and solidified into something much more than friendship, more than brotherhood…during combat and in war. They morphed into something that is not easily described. Complete trust and confidence that they would give their life to save yours – as you would for them…without a thought. We see examples of this in the unbelievable heroic actions that we hear about, like Cpl. Kyle Carpenter who threw himself on a grenade to save the life of his fellow Marine.
Today, on Veterans Day, I think of my dad, my uncles, grandfathers, cousins, nephews, and all my family members who served. I think of all my friends and fellow service members that I served with, and some I didn’t serve with but who I still count as friends.
I think about the years I was not with my family. How I missed my daughter’s birthdays, those special moments that father and son are supposed to have, but that my sons and I didn’t. I think of those moments that are so special in a marriage that I never saw – and how those left behind missed out on so much…how that affected our lives and our relationships. Now, in the years that are left to me, how much I regret not having those times back. I will never have them back. My family will never have them.
I think of those (many of them my friends) who not only suffered the same fate, but whose bodies were broken, maimed, and destroyed by war, by their service, and who suffer daily the effects of their sacrifice. I know, I hurt…every…single…day. I think of the deep and devastating psychological scars that they bear, of the unthinkable sights, sounds and events locked away in their head – things that can never be shared with anyone who was not there. I think of their families who did not volunteer for it, but who have become caregivers, whose lives have also been deeply affected by not only having to take on that duty that they did not volunteer for, but who have to watch the deterioration and suffering of their loved one – and how that changes their relationships, their lives, destroys their dreams.
And I think of the selfless sacrifice that millions of our servicemembers, men and women, have given to keep our country safe and secure for us, our families. How can I possibly repay the debt owed for this freedom, our security, and a life that is unknown in most parts of the world?
I can’t. I can only honor those who have stepped up and taken on that title – a Veteran.