UNITED STATES—For those who might be in the dark, Veterans Day is on Friday, November 11. For most Americans, it is just another federal holiday or day off, especially if you work for the government. However, it is NOT just a day off; it is a day where we should be paying tribute to our veterans, the people who actually fought in wars for this country and for us to enjoy the freedoms that we currently have.

For me personally, Veteran’s Day is an important holiday because I have many family members who are veterans. Nearly all of my uncles on my dad’s side of the family served in the Army, Air Force or Navy. I also have family members on my mother’s side who have served in the Army. So Veteran’s Day is quite important because it forces me to realize perks I get to enjoy in life for people who almost lost their life or did lose their life as a result of war.

War is nasty people and it is something a lot of people don’t like to chat about. People die, there is physical ailments, mental ailments and a ton of other struggles are veterans have to battle for those who survive when they return home. We tend to forget about that and it is something we don’t even acknowledge a lot of the time. We act as if it doesn’t matter but it does. The thought of someone who fought in a war NOT being able to have housing, a place to lay their head, a decent job, healthcare, and the list can go on and on. It is an absolute travesty that I cannot understand no matter how hard I try to make sense of it.

Someone who risked his or her life so I can enjoy the freedoms I enjoy does not have a place to lay their head. They cannot get affordable housing, a decent paying job. It just does not make any sense and the fact that as a country we are NOT doing more to protect and help our veterans in America. We are being quite selfish if I’m being honest and that is something we need to change immediately.

For me personally, one of my heroes is my grandfather, rest his soul as he died in 2021 as a result of contracting COVID-19. He was 99 years old, he was a veteran who served in World War II and was mere months from turning 100 when he passed. I really had no idea of the impact he had on my life until he was gone. Why? He never talked about his time in WWII. He alluded to certain things, but there was trauma from that time that he refused to discuss.

For starters, he never got on a plane EVER AGAIN after he was tossed out of a plane during WWII and being ambushed on that beach by the enemy. He noted it was one of the scariest moments of his life and I remember him telling me, he prayed to God to just protect and look over him, which God did. He was a fighter and watched over prisoners who were the enemy, who constantly called him racial slurs. He touched on the fact that as an African-American he was NOT allowed to mingle with Whites during WWII even though they were aligned. It is so sad that even during war, race still played a vital role in keeping people apart that should have been aligned for a common goal.

I honestly believe he survived the war as a direct result of my grandmother, who he made a promise that he would return and he would marry her upon his return. He did just that and had a bevy of children in the process. He had trouble getting a loan to purchase a home because of his race, but landed a job with General Motors and was able to get housing. Still crazy the government did not want to provide financing for veterans who fought in WWII because of their race.

Did he battle demons? Absolutely. I know alcohol was something that was a trigger for my grandpa, which was like a little family secret barely talked or chatted about. You would hear the whispers, but you would dare not talk about it. Many veterans who return from war have to deal with those demons and some cope with alcohol and drugs to bury them; others deal with mental stress that eventually takes a toll on their mental state. I’m referring to depression people. A lot of veterans battle with depression and suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from war. Some don’t get the help they need and as a result they spiral diving deeper and deeper into a depressed state of mind that sometimes leads to suicide.

There are businesses out there that do indeed provide free meals, a free movie, discounts and such for anyone who is a veteran or has a family member who is a veteran. Those things are nice, but I truly believe from most veterans that I have spoken to want to hear one thing: THANK YOU! Veterans want to be aware that people appreciate what they have done for the country. Guess what America, it does NOT cost a ton of money to say thank you to a veteran for their service. It is free, so it should be so easy for you to do it. It should be so easy for you to think about it and want to do it. However, many of us do not do it. We don’t even think about it; it is simply another day for us and that is the problem.

Veteran’s Day is NOT just another day America, and the fact that we constantly seem to think that is the problem. We need to change that analogy and way of thinking because it does a disservice for those who serve for this country. Are you going to fight in the war? Are you going to risk your life to protect other Americans? A vast portion of people in this country will NOT and are not going to do that.