“You’ll have to turn around,” the military guard said, as he handed the expired ID back to me. It hadn’t crossed my mind that this year’s birthday meant I was no longer allowed on base. For 26 years, my father served. For 18 years, I had grown up an “Army brat.” New schools every couple years, play dates with kids who barely spoke my language, and cookie-cutter haircuts from the military barbers – these were all things I had to “deal with.” Today, however, brought a realization: All the things, good or bad, which I had dealt WITH, are now parts of my life I'll have to deal WITHOUT.
One thing will always stay with me, though – the deep and genuine appreciation I have for the tremendous sacrifice made by every man and woman who has ever put on a uniform. Each one of them has made this country a stronger place. And growing up witnessing their selflessness and devotion made ME a stronger person.
That’s why I’m here today – to thank them. One in particular.
I’m writing this in my car, now parked in the general lot of Arlington National Cemetery. I have yet to make my way down the hill to my Grandfather’s marker - the reason I'm here. Needless to say, Arlington is a powerful place on Veterans Day. Outside my windshield, I see folks from all generations and ethnicities, wearing every emotion, from deep sadness to reserved happiness. Some probably visit the same iconic white headstone each and every month, while others stand here in awe for the first time. But today, we are all here out of the most sincere respect for those who served and sacrificed for the good of our nation.
If you haven't already, I challenge you to reflect today. Think about the liberties we take for granted. Ask yourself how you can make this world, our country, and your community a better place. Imagine what could be achieved if we all served in some way. It is an amazing thing to sacrifice a part of yourself for the common good. Today, we celebrate those who have chosen to make it their life’s work.
Happy Veterans Day