I’m a veteran.
Veterans’ Day was originally called Armistice Day. Fighting ceased in the “Great War,” which we now call World War One, at the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th month. I have to wonder why they couldn’t do it immediately–how many other lives were lost waiting for 11:00?
Being a veteran changes people. When I came back from Southwest Asia, I was different. I didn’t notice it, but everyone else did, so it took a while for me to be willing to adjust to the new normal. Years later, I’m still working on it. I think I’m making progress.
I was in logistics, meaning I supported the warriors–the heroes. I spent time in combat areas, but I was never directly engaged in combat. Nevertheless, to this day, I tend to be hyperalert. I dream about still being in uniform. I also jump at any loud or surprising noises. My coworkers know that when they speak to me, at the first syllable, I’ll jump.
I came back without any combat induced physical injury. However, I was affected in other ways. I attended too many memorial services; the inverted rifle, boots, helmet, and dog tags at the front of the chapel were real. Often, there were more than one set. Each represented a real son, daughter, spouse, or parent that would not be coming home. I cannot describe the impact of those on me, but it affects me to this day.
Being a veteran changed me in other ways–good ways. I know what it means to be part of something much larger and more important than myself. I know the meaning of honor, courage, and commitment. I was blessed to learn these priceless lessons.
When I returned to the states and someone thanked me for my service, at first I didn’t know what to say. Over time, I realized that for me there was only one honest and appropriate response.
“It was an honor.”