Grinning youthful faces, covered in dust, wearing sunglasses, armed…
My social media fills with memories on Veterans Day when my friends and family uploaded pictures. The pictures take me way back — to places with sand, rooms made of plywood, and the howl of a UH60 main transmission. We lived for hot meals and real eggs. We went on missions that bored us, then scared us, then bored us again. We worked out a lot. We played video games. We had some heavy days…
Decades later, the faces on my phone, remind me of the joy I had living, and serving with America’s very best.
On Veterans Day, my family or non-Veteran friends will often thank me for my service. I usually find this awkward, and mumble some response while walking away as fast as possible. How could they be thanking me? These were some of the most awesome years of my life. The grimy, grinning faces on my phone fill my soul with as much love as my kids’ baby pictures or photos from my wedding day.
Thank you America – you gave us the very best!
This year on Veterans Day, it can be hard to find joy in America. Anxiety and apprehension weight the air like humidity on a summer afternoon. Wounds of division remain raw. Neighbors, friends, and family are than more likely to tell negative stories, lament case counts, and opine about lock-downs.
The eyes always to the phones…
On one single day — Veterans Day — images of smiling youthful faces drowned out the dismal social media feed in my hands. Those dusty smiles reminded me of my incredible military family. These men and women were at war – yet still they smiled. Buoyed by their strength, I raised my eyes and moved forward.
Each face has a story.
Our Veteran stories open a window to a world where we pushed the dark of war away with love and laughter. We had belly-splitting laughs, epic missions, and a few days of deep sorrow. Swipe by swipe, the faces gave me the strength to pull away from consuming negativity — using memories of a time when America’s very best came together during the very worst.
Share America’s best with America.
This year, I vow to change the message on Veterans Day. Rather than awkwardly slinking away when a stranger says “thank you for your service” – I will share the best of America with America. That stranger just gave me an opening to change the narrative of the day. Some stories are here on Veteran’s Voices but there are many more. As a Veteran community, we have seen the very best of America. Let’s share that with America.
Statue in the image: Prince of Swords, Nicole Eisenman (2013), Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburg PA