“A Veteran, whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve, is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount up to and including his or her own life.” Unknown
This Saturday is Armed Forces Day. In honor of the men and women that have written a blank check for their lives in exchange for our freedom I asked several friends to help us understand their choice… Adonis Phillips, Joseph Pullen, David Groce and LaDine Roth Cravotta are Veterans, Cathy Herring is a mother of a Veteran.
When I asked each one why they served I received a variety of answers:
More than once, these former soldiers emphasized how much they believe in our nation’s freedom and how much they valued being a part of being something bigger than themselves and how much they valued the camaraderie. Additionally…
Adonis said that being a Marine was the only thing he ever wanted to be. Joseph and LaDine spoke of the funds to go to college. David spoke of the family tradition
When I asked what the hardest thing was that each one faced the answers were echoes of each other.
- “The hardest thing I faced while serving was being away from my family. I missed the births of both of my nieces (Korea for my oldest niece and Italy for my second niece). I missed seeing them grow up and missed being able to spend time with them in day to day life. They have grown into such beautiful young ladies and I missed allot of it. For me, being in a combat zone is nothing compared to missing my family.” LaDine
- “The hardest thing I faced was the family separation. I found out that my wife was pregnant with my son while in Southwest Asia during Desert Shield/Storm. At that time my only goal was to get home safely to see my son born.” Adonis
- “Being away from family. There were many instances in which I missed special events in my family’s life because I was some place other than home.” Joseph
- “The hardest thing I faced was deploying to Operation Desert Storm and not so much in fear of going to war, but the thought of never seeing my wife and new born son again.” David
- “The hardest part for me was when he deployed. We were not allowed to know where he was going and might not hear from him for awhile. I knew he was a highly trained soldier, but war is war. I even did CR to help me with my fear. Some days my faith was bigger than my fear, but I had many days that my fear was bigger than my faith. Those were Psalm 91 days.” Cathy
“Deployment tears your heart in two, only reconnected at homecoming.” Unknown
When I asked what the most rewarding part of serving was. The responses varied again.
- Service to others.
- Developing others.
- Watching those you invested in grow and succeed.
- The travel and the global experience especially for the kids!
- The camaraderie.
- The people you meet!
- Knowing that what you are doing is keeping your friends and family safe.
When I asked what they learned lessons in life and leadership resonated:
- “Discipline and teamwork to be humble and to not take things that seem trivial for granted.” Adonis
- “I learned to communicate on an extremely high level. Dealing with people from such an extensive diverse background really opened my eyes and enhanced my communication skills. I learned we don’t live in a “one size fits all” universe and adjusting as you go is necessary to success. I learned that being a leader takes an enormous amount of learning, training, and thought. You have to get in front of people and ask them to do what you yourself are willing to do. I learned that we all share in success in failure by our actions. Actions are definitely louder than words and action should always be the highest form of example.” Joseph
- “I learned that friends can often be more important than family. I found that Veterans will bend over backwards for each other, and that’s a relationship that rarely exists in Corporate America.” David
- “I learned to listen and be more understanding of people and their situations. I was raised in a very small town in the midwest and hadn’t experienced much until I joined the Air Force. I’ve met so many wonderful and diverse people over the years because of my service. My time in the Air Force has also helped me to be more compassionate for others. We all have no idea of what people have been through in their lives and as a supervisor, I had to learn to always keep an open mind about the people I would encounter. “ LaDine
- “I learned that some soldiers give their lives, but others give their minds. I learned that PTSD is very real and common for so many of our soldiers and vets. My son is finally healing, but he had to come to the conclusion he needed help before that healing process began.” Cathy
The most important question I asked these people who were willing to exchange their lives for our freedom was, “How can civilians do a better job of understanding and supporting Veterans and their families?”
Did you know that many studies indicate that 92% of military families felt that the civilian population doesn’t understand or appreciate their sacrifices?
- “Remember that the liberties you have are because of them.” Joseph
- “Get to know them.” Adonis
- “Never pretend that you really understand what a veteran has gone through.” David
- “The best thing a civilian can do is listen to the Soldier and appreciate the sacrifices they made for our country.” David
- “I needed so much during his service. For someone to tell me that they were praying for him meant so much to me. A hug, a smile, a card, or a simple thank you kept me going. It still means a lot to me to see someone showing honor and pride for our soldiers. When I see one in public, I make a point to tell them thank you.” Cathy
- “As a Veteran, I still go up to other Veterans and ask them to share their best and worst day of serving in the military. It helps opens up the door for conversation and allows the Veteran to share their stories. I feel proud and honored when people do it to me, so I hope that I do the same thing when I do it to others.” LaDine
Today as I sit in a country where I can’t choose what I want to wear when I go out in public, where I can’t drive, where I can’t openly discuss my faith, and where websites are sometimes blocked. I appreciate more than ever that the little things we take for granted in the U.S. are not a reality for the rest of the world.
Will you seek out a veteran today, thank them for what they have done for our country and ask them to share their stories?
This story would not be complete without thanking the people in my life that are Veterans. My Husband Jim was deployed for 14 months when we were still newlyweds. (You were so worth the wait!) My Dad Bill. Both of my Grandfathers. Nearly all of my Uncles – and there are a lot of them! (With special recognition to my Uncle Larry who volunteered to go to Vietnam in my Dad’s place when I was born early and was hospitalized for a period of time. Words will never be able to convey the meaning of that gift.) To numerous cousins and many dear friends. Your service inspires me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Image credit: Microsoft
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