Each year we celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 11, but the appreciation we should be showing service men and women goes so far beyond one day. These men and women did not just serve our country in a military compacity. Many of these men and women also work hard to make communities nationwide better.
These men and women can often be found participating in volunteer opportunities and clubs to donate time and skills and to raise funds for a variety of community improvements such as scholarships and betterment.
Every year, as I meet more veterans in my personal and professional life, I am always proud of the dedication these men and women show to the towns they live and the country they love.
Veterans are some of the country’s most dedicated citizens. They carry a heavy burden, especially those who have been in war, and they oftentimes still want to help others.
One of the veterans I often pay tribute to this time of year is my own dad. I have written in this space before that while I am in my 40s and he is in his 70s, it is only recently that I have gotten to know and understand him a lot better.
He served in Vietnam, serving aboard a helicopter with the sole purpose of landing and picking up wounded American soldiers. Serving as a gunner on that aircraft could not have been easy. The things he must have seen. One can only imagine.
It was only last year that he told me that is what he did in the war. In a more recent conversation, I asked him what it was like coming home. He talked about the anger of a nation toward a controversial war and the soldiers who had fought in it.
He talked about the stress of not always being supported for one of the toughest things he would ever do in his life. When I asked how he dealt with it emotionally, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You didn’t. You just learned to bury it inside and move on with life.”
The sadness I felt in the moment was strong — knowing that when my dad was a young adult, he saw things no one should have to see, and then was told by society to bury it and forget about it.
I respect that my dad buried it. He and my mom raised me and my brothers. He worked hard. My work ethic definitely comes from him.
But what might have happened if he talked about the experience, got it out in the open and dealt with it? Would he have been different as we grew up?
Did we take something from him and other soldiers by not helping them focus and address it?
As a journalist, I have sat down with many veterans and active military over the years. I have interviewed a general, young soldiers and older. I am always honored when they are willing to open up to me about what they gained and lost in service.
During the Iraq War, I will never forget a young soldier in his 20s telling me that he lost more friends in his young adult life than he had fingers. I told his story and to this day think about the strength it took for him to sit and talk to me that hour that day.
Our veterans are honored members of our community and I hope we can thank them more than just one day a year.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.