Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Challenges Of Being A Veteran

Veterans Day -- Today we honor all who have served honorably in the military -- in wartime or peace. TOP offers a bouquet of thanks for your service, appreciates your contributions and underscores that all who serve have sacrificed and done their duty.

There should also be a "Family Veterans Day." Families make sacrifices, yet receive little recognition. As one TOP widow once appropriately said, "Although we did not fight in Viet Nam, we fought on a different battlefield."

TOP invites you to read Michele McNair's November 6, 2009 blog perspective, "Veteran's Day: Let Us NEVER Forget." Michele's family life has been heavily steeped in the military. As well, Michele participated in one of TOP's Tours Of Peace. Michele's story emphasizes our belief of why family members deserve their recognition too; additionally, she is a great example of TOP Family & Educational Program trip participants.

Friends and supporters of veterans--Veterans Day does not exist without you. We veterans are thankful for your friendship and support.

It is sometimes difficult to separate Veterans Day from Memorial Day; this is underscored with the recent massacre at Ft. Hood. Being a veteran and living with service-related memories can be challenging. These memories may bubble up and prove difficult for veterans on Veterans Day. Nonetheless, it is important that veterans know how appreciated their service is.

Many lost friends and buddies to war. There are veterans who share "survivor's guilt"--having lived through their service experience while others did not. Likewise, many war-era veterans who did not serve in a combat theater feel guilty not doing the job their peers had to do. No matter what a veteran's job was and where they did their duty, we are grateful.

Survivors guilt can be severe--some veterans wished they had died in war with their comrades, rather than be mired in a life of fear, anger, terror, drugs and alcohol from their war. The fate of PTSD, drug & alcohol abuse, as a result of the trauma of war, can be hell. During the Civil War, General William Sherman said simply and accurately, "War is hell." Unfortunately, many veterans and families live this hell daily . . . indefinitely . . . long after service. They brought the war home with them.

Additionally, it is not an uncommon phenomenon for veterans who served in war to diminish their service, saying, "I didn't have it as bad as you guys . . . or, I had it easy compared to most . . ." Sometimes minimizing war involving is a coping mechanism.

As life is not challenging enough for many former servicemen: Sadly, veterans are often stereotyped in the news: For example, occasionally in news stories of crime & violence, the past military service of a suspect becomes part of the story, e.g., ". . . a former Marine," or, ". . . a Vietnam veteran . . ." Identifying crime suspects by military service is discriminatory behavior, no different from racial discrimination or profiling. This Veterans Day might be a good starting point to begin a campaign of enlightenment within and those around you, to become aware of discriminatory behaviors which profile military or ex-military as violent, criminal or uneducated.

Conversely, in this day & age, the public and media have a propensity for elevating public figures who break laws, abuse substances, are involved in violent behaviors and morally corrupt. Some of these stars, musicians, athletes, and reality figures are labeled as "heroes." Unfortunately, their feats and accomplishments have nothing to do with courage and unconditional sacrifice for the good of others. Meanwhile, veterans who fit the old-fashioned definition of "hero"--quietly live difficult lives of humility, lacking recognition for their unconditional sacrifice for the good others.

Today, is a good day to redefine the true meaning of "heroes." Begin with the veterans in your life: Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters . . . relatives . . . veteran friends . . . veteran co-workers . . . the neighbor with a military bumper sticker . . . the person in the mall with a military baseball cap. Fellow veterans, remember to thank the veterans in your life too.

Thank your veterans for their service and sacrifice. Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor living veterans. Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor those who gave their lives in service. Realize the veteran heroes who your life is blessed with.

TOP (Tours Of Peace) Vietnam Veterans is honored to be a non-profit organization for veterans and families. We are proud to be a part of veteran & their family's lives . . . especially on this very special day.