Veterans Day is November 11 each year. As the child of two retired US Navy parents, as the day arrives, my heart always swells up just a little bigger with pride thinking about my parents, and all veterans, and how they committed to protecting our country. On this Veterans Day, my mom has been retired for over 15 years and my dad for over 30, so they simply enjoy the tokens of thanks that many companies offer them, whether it be a free meal or a little extra discount, but it wasn’t always that “simple”.
Growing up, my dad was already retired so he stayed home with us. My mom was the one who routinely deployed for months at a time. It was just the three of us, my dad, sister and I, for the most part, until middle school. It was then when she left to defend America so all of us could continue to enjoy our usual routines and liberties. And while she missed a significant part of my childhood, I always knew that it was for an important reason.
My dad had a military career much earlier, which included four tours in Vietnam, but he never really talked about it, as many veterans don’t. Truly, the first, and really only time I ever had the opportunity to learn about his experience was one summer during graduate school when my summer break trip home coincided with one of his shipmate reunions. The way my classes were set up, I only spent 2 weeks at home that summer, but it really worked out perfectly. After months of going back and forth about whether he would attend, my mom finally convinced him to and asked me to purchase the flight tickets for them. So I did, for all three of us. I mean obviously I was going home to spend time with them so if that meant WE were going on a reunion trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so be it! Not many 22 year olds would be thrilled to go to a work reunion with their parents, but I always welcome a chance to travel.
There were about one hundred people who attended the USS Boston shipmate reunion that year. My dad saw old friends and people who he hadn’t seen since left that duty station which was 45 years earlier. He couldn’t stop smiling the whole time we were there and he was reminiscing with everyone. They had a mini museum with all the history of the ship and yearbooks which both of us thoroughly enjoyed, him for old memories and me because I got a peek into a time in his life that he NEVER talked about. To hear his and his shipmates experiences was truly an honor. Plus, I got some brownie points for being the best daughter ever because no one else’s kids were willingly there.
I say all this to say that I am so proud of them and all of our veterans every day, but especially on Veterans Day. If you have a husband, wife, sister, brother, daughter, etc. that is in the military, you know that it is true:: freedom is not free. These veterans sacrifice so much on a daily basis, with their families and friends, their mental health, their physical health, and sometimes their lives so that we can live in America as we do. So, if you see one today, on Veterans Day, or any day, remember to thank them.