As we paused last week to honor our Veteran’s on Veteran’s Day, I believe every day we should honor and thank our Veterans. In Central Texas we have a treasure that is not hard to see, but can be easily overlooked. This treasure surrounds us; we interact with it every day, sometimes unknowingly. This treasure represents the very best of our community, of Texas, and what it means to be an American.
This treasure is our Veteran community.
Central Texas is fortunate to have over 80,000 warriors from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Wars, extending to recent Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and subsequent campaigns. We must also remember the thousands of men and women that served during times of relative peace –from the end of Vietnam to the Global War on Terror – who also stood on foreign soil or sailed international seas to keep us safe. Some spent four, others 40, years of their lives in service to us, and they deserve our eternal gratitude.
Some wear their service proudly, sporting a service or unit shirt or hat, displaying combat tours, ship assignments, or awards earned. Others, once they take off the uniform for the final time, blend into society, and their service and sacrifice is not always easy to find.
They are our neighbors and friends. Some are teachers, public workers, and small business owners; others continue to serve our community as police, firefighters, and first responders. Many, well into retirement years, can be found volunteering in continued service to our community.
While I continue steadfast focus on the national issues facing our Veteran community, tirelessly working to ensure we preserve Lincoln’s promise to care for those that ‘borne the battle’; as we come off the Veteran’s Day weekend, I encourage you to do a little more than just thank a veteran. This year we should all take a moment to hear their stories, listen to their pain and joy, and if they are willing, how they felt or what they thought during their service.
For a moment, they might open up and talk about their trials and tribulations. Some may laugh, and others cry; some might show very little emotion at all. Do not be surprised if their stories are not about themselves, but rather retell the merits of their friends, the acts of heroism that few know about, or a short story about those that did not come home.
For one moment there will be a pure connection between those who have served and the citizens they fought to protect. In that moment we might also be able to understand, if even briefly what it is like to be a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine; what drives these brave individuals to put their personal safety and comfort aside to answer the call and serve our Country. If this moment occurs, cherish it, because for many this small gesture makes their sacrifice worth it. This connection — a genuine attempt to understand — is the greatest “Thank You” we can give our Veterans.