Veterans hold a special place in my heart. It might be due to the fact that my father served on a destroyer in the Navy during WWII. He never talked much about it, only told us the lighter stories about when they would put into port and go ashore for some rest and relaxation.
Sharing the harder stories about the war was never something he liked or wanted to do. My siblings and I respected his boundaries.
Recently, when I was in San Diego, my husband and I took a tour of the USS Midway: a retired aircraft carrier that played a vital part in the Battle of Midway. This was a decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that took place between June 4 and 7, 1942, only six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea.
As we toured this massive ship and saw what life on board was like for the sailors, I will admit that I got a little emotional. I kept thinking to myself: “Dad slept in a small cramped area similar to this. He worked in a boiler room similar to this. When general quarters sounded and he reported to his assignment on deck, he knew that he could be injured or worse. “
My reaction to this experience took me by surprise. As a small child, I can remember my dad instilling in us the importance of showing respect to our veterans. We were taught that these men and women had sacrificed more than we could ever understand. They missed holidays with family, maybe the birth of one or more of their own children, and let’s not forget the loss of their friends and brothers in uniform.
They endured this and much more all because they chose to serve their country and to defend our many freedoms here in the United States.
Those two words just don’t seem to fit the depth of the gratitude we should all feel in our hearts. I want to encourage and challenge each of you that are reading this now to make an extra effort to shake the hand of a veteran and thank them. When you see an active duty service man or woman; thank them. They are following in the footsteps of our veterans and ensuring our country’s future freedoms.
The writer is the executive director of the Senior Center of Sidney and Shelby County.