In the wee hours of a cold winter’s morning, a soldier stirs from his bed and wanders into his kids’ rooms. He kisses his sons gently on their heads and then picks up his newborn daughter gently from her crib. He holds her and tells her he loves her no matter what, and to be good for mommy. A tear rolls off his cheek as he lays her back down and tells her he has to go away and doesn’t know when (or if) he is coming home. Down the hall the phone rings. He knows what it means: the order is confirmed, time to suit up and leave.
For the veteran, this scenario is nothing new, having been lived and relived a thousand times over in the course of the history of this great nation. Freedom, after all, is not free. George Orwell perhaps said it best: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because hard men (and women) stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Veterans understand this far better than most folks, and know that they are the nation’s first and last line of defense when the wolf howls at the door. They are not motivated by money, nor by glory. They just do the job that no one can, or wants to. It is this simple quality that makes veterans special above all others; the willingness to sacrifice all for someone else.
Today, Wednesday, November 11, 2015, we have an opportunity to show our appreciation to these brave men and women, both present and past. There will be ceremonies, a moment of silence, perhaps even a parade or two. Any of these is an appropriate gesture for honoring our nation’s finest. However, you know what means the most to a veteran? Just an acknowledgement of their service and sacrifice; in other words, a simple thank you. Today, remember to say thanks to a veteran, he or she will appreciate it more than any other gesture. Trust me, I know.
Charles Young is the Director of Military Programs at Post University. Young retired from the military in 2007 after 22 years of active federal service. Young holds a B.S. in Management from the University of Maryland University College and an MBA in Corporate Innovation from the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University. Young is also a mentor in the MBA program at Post.