What Veterans Day Means To Those Of Us Who Didn’t Serve

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Every November 11 we celebrate Veterans Day, a time of recognition and remembrance of all the brave men and women who have served our country by putting on the uniform and sacrificing for our freedom, our country, and ourselves. Personally, I don’t know what it’s like to put on the uniform and serve in the military; but I do know what it is like to stand beside military personnel and not take them for granted. So here are some personal thoughts on Veterans Day from a non-veteran, and what it means to me.

Veterans Day is a time for the rest of us to say thank you to all veterans. We say thank you, not out of a sense of obligation or because of the date on the calendar, because we truly are grateful for your service. You gave up years of your life for your country and its citizens, years you will never get back. Probably you had some great experiences; probably you had some bad ones too. And far too many of you came back with wounds that may never be healed.

Veterans Day is a chance for the rest of us to acknowledge military personnel and veterans. We want to tip our cap, shake your hand, give you a hug, and just let you know that we see you, we are aware of what you’ve done for us – and what you’ve been through – and that you are not forgotten or alone. Whether it’s feelings of not being appreciated, having a hard time adjusting to civilian life, or going through a darker place emotionally or physically, we want you to know that you matter to us and that we understand.

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Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to show our children, the next generation, who they should be looking up to. Not the reality television stars or flash in the pan celebrities that come and go – and certainly not many of the mainstream celebrities of the day who are at empty and shallow but for the characters they sometimes play on the big screen. We want our children to see what a real hero looks like – and that’s you, veterans. We want the opportunity for a young child to shake the hand of the person who sacrifices their time and their selves for others, who is disciplined and lives by honor, respect, bravery, and camaraderie.

Veterans Day is not the one day a year when we go to a ceremony in the park and say “thank you” to a couple of guys from the VFW or American Legion. It’s a little buzzer to remind us that we need to be grateful for all veterans every day of the year, and that if we have somehow lots our heads and have been taking you for granted lately, then we’d better wake up and dust off that appreciation.

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Veterans Day is an acknowledgement from the rest of us of the which debt we owe you but can never repay. How can we repay you for your time, your protection, your service, and your sacrifice? How can we give back the years you gave up for us? How can we repair injuries that often we cannot even see? And how can we possibly live up to the sacrifice you made – and the other you were willing to make – on our behalf? There’s nothing we can do but be grateful and say “thank you.” It is only a gesture, but that is all we have to give. You, veterans, already gave so much.

So thank you for your service. Thank you for the freedom and safety I have every day because of you. Thank you for putting on that uniform. Thank you, veterans.

To learn about the history of Veterans Day, click here!

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Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.