The November 11th American holiday, Veterans Day. It always strikes a special chord in my heart. This year even more so.
A Real Veterans Day
The coronavirus and the election have wreaked absolute havoc on our lives. The fear. The uncertainty. The isolation. The lack of community. Blame, judgment and anger. These difficulties are understandable within the ebb and flow of life. However, not understandable when experienced in abundance so many days in a row.
Are you feeling these things too? I am. And it’s not the first time.
The first time I felt a stress like this was when I was in the Air Force.
It happened upon my entrance and again while transitioning out. The boundaries and directives there at age 18 were instantly gone at age 22. The civilian regimen was so different than in the military, and I’ll never forget the intense struggle with self-regulation and figuring out a balance. Years later, I felt it yet again. A chronic emotional stress like no other when my husband joined the Army. He was away for months at a time, ultimately deploying to Iraq. As a spouse, the feeling of helplessness was just awful. I said goodbye for days, months, a year, my husband on the front lines while my children asked for their father day and night. The inability to change the situation was the hardest for me. As a person who likes to figure things out, who likes to make things better for people, the lack of influence or control caused unending frustration.
Today’s feelings mimic those of when we were in the military, a time long before Covid-19 and polarizing politics.
As I sit here and reflect, who would have thought that today’s challenging times would bring forth the same types of feelings from years ago? The stress was crushing some days. Lighter others. But it was always there, lingering over heads. In every move. Each new job. Life threw changes at us from every direction, and we had to adjust. Those days, through each stage of change, both in and right after the Army, were some of our most difficult days.
New-found empathy this Veterans Day
A Veteran is any person who served honorably in the United States Armed Forces. We can honor their service with a sincere thank you, acknowledging their contribution to our country, donating/supporting Veterans organizations, for instance – All wonderful ways to show respect. This Veterans Day, though, is unique. In a way and year like no other, each one of us now possesses a newfound level of empathy. This year of 2020 has given us unprecedented stress, a small glimpse of the stress that men, women and families of our US Military endure. Many for years. Many for a lifetime.
Comparatively, as a person who has all her abilities, limbs, life and hope, I have suffered the very least compared to millions of Veterans. I merely share my experiences and past feelings, to show that today’s hardships have presented us with a place of commonality. We have the opportunity of a little insight and a better understanding of a Veteran’s feelings.
Compassion and curiosity meant less lonely, more supported.
Thankfully, back then, there were more bright days than dark ones. We felt compassion and love through phone and video calls, cards and surprise packages. Letters, emails and Facebook messages kept us close to friends and family afar. Reading the stories of their lives, even if drastically different than ours, was quite healing and made me very happy. When we rebuilt our life outside the military, over and over in new homes and communities, it was always curiosity that sparked friendships. What was that like? In the Army? In the Air Force? Tell me about… Questions that gave way to conversation. Conversation that allowed us to mutually learn about each other. As a result, to learn about each other meant to feel less lonely, more supported.
On this Veterans Day
From the perspective as a Veteran, mom and wife, what better way to show your respect to a Veteran than through conversation and your gift of time. How did you…? What was your best…? Do you miss…? Through the kinship of our hardship, a brighter day can be made when through connection. Today, to honor a Veteran. Tomorrow, to honor a friend. Additionally, in all the days after, may we continue to share our compassion, curiosity and respect for one another.
What does Veterans Day mean to you?
Top Left: My husband is in one of those parachutes!
Top Right: Fryars Field, Fort Benning, GA
Bottom Left: Soldiers of the 1-507th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Bottom Right: We spotted him running and scooped him up! I love this one because you can see the others still coming down in the background.