UNITED STATES—This used to be a federal holiday that I didn’t think much about until my grandfather recently died as a result of COVID-19 back in April. I’m referring to Veterans Day, a federal holiday that is aimed to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their own lives so that people like myself and so many other Americans could enjoy the perks of life that we sometimes take for granted.
You might be asking specifically what transpired that caused me to realize that there is more to Veterans Day than the banks, courts, federal and state offices being closed. Well, it was seeing actual survivors from World War II fire actual bullets into the sky honoring my grandfather at his funeral. It forced me to realize that there are NOT many vets who fought in that game changing war against Germany and Japan that are still alive. My grandfather was one of those people, and when I finally had the courage to ask him about his time during the war I was astounded, literally speechless.
I had always wanted to ask him about what transpired during WWII, but it was a painful period for him and he had haunting memories as a result. I didn’t want to stir up that trauma again because I didn’t know what the outcome would be. My grandfather had never flown in a plane after WWII, so for more than 70 years he would and never got back on a plane. It was a direct result of him being tossed out of plane and forced right into battle. He said it was the most terrifying moment of his life. You know that opening scene of the 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan” where those soldiers are dropping from planes and exiting boats with a barrage of bullets coming their way? My grandfather was one of those soldiers and he miraculously survived.
He wouldn’t explain exactly how he did it, he just said he asked for God to watch over him and he did. He later shared tales about being in the trenches fighting to survive and being segregated from Whites because Blacks and Whites were not allowed to intermingle even during the war people. I couldn’t believe it, it frustrated me to hear that, but it was the 1940s, Plessy v Ferguson was still intact and had not yet been reversed by Brown v. The Board of Education.
He noted there was unification to win the war, but it was more a focus on surviving; that was the mindset for many of the soldiers. The one thing he shared that was touching was the fact that he told me he survived because he made it a mission to return to my grandmother. Her love kept him going and when they reunited, they got married and the rest is history.
However, I still wonder why our veterans don’t receive the love they deserve. Like, why in the world are we constantly hearing about veterans not getting the mental help needed after returning from war or serving our country? Why do I constantly hear stories about vets being homeless and unable to find work after giving the ultimate sacrifice for this country? Veterans should be at the top of the totem pole in terms of care. They should NEVER have to worry about housing, being able to pay their bills, getting the mental help they need to battle potential Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and so much more.
Instead we get a single day where we are SUPPOSED to pay tribute to them, but instead we’re thinking “Hey, I got the day off.” That is especially true if you work for the government, everyone else continues their day as if nothing occurred. I mean many restaurants offer free meals which are great, some retailers offer discounts to veterans which is also a plus, but can’t we do more? I think so, even if it means taking 5 to 10 minutes and just thanking those who did so much for this country who never get the acknowledgment. I remember hearing a vet once say a person just saying thank you for your service is a huge victory for them because some people don’t get it, they just don’t.
I mean I have so many family members who have served for this country and luckily they all came back to us, but that doesn’t mean the scars from that service doesn’t linger. I mean I have uncles who served in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. Some fought in the Gulf War, some fought in the Vietnam War, some fought in the Iraq War and as you already know my grandfather, let his soul rest in peace fought in World War II and was a survivor until COVID-19 claimed his life.
I’m still bitter about that, but I know he wouldn’t want me to hold onto that bitterness. My family just knew he would make it to March 2022 where we planned to have a massive 100th birthday celebration for him, but it just reminds me that you have to appreciate the time you have with your loved ones when you have it, you never know when your time or there time might be up.
So to all the veterans out there on this Veterans Day I want to say from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice for doing something that I didn’t have the courage to do so that I can enjoy the liberties that myself and so many others take for granted. Your service does not go unnoticed and to the families of those who lost loved ones who served this country my prayers are with you and let it be know they will never and I mean never be forgotten.