I have to admit, nine years ago I didn't understand the importance of this day. I understood the word Veteran in the most vague of terms and figured that it probably meant more to my step-dad, uncles and grandparents. In fact, I didn't really even understand the military, where I'm from, there are no active duty bases, and the military community of reservists was small, so, I couldn't understand why people would sign up for war. In fact, I was so niave that I thought that being in the mlitary meant that you were just signing up for war.
I didn't understand the military spouse, the 50s style language of "honor" and "service" to ones spouse and country, and why so many of them stayed at home with their children instead of working. And of course, I could never understand the sacrifice of what it means to be "military". Sure, I'd seen war movies, I'm a history major: I've read testimonials, books and papers, and I've understood on paper what it was like for those serving in some of the most grueling wars in the history of man, but to imagine what it was really like was too complicated for my small town liberal life.
But for the last nine years, I've lived a military lifestyle. I watched as the man I loved, and couldn't wait to marry, took his oath to defend this nation and put his life, his duty, and his sacrifices on the line for the good of the people instead of what was good for me...or him... or our new life. I have seen friends deploy. I've seen the hardships this job has taken on those I care about. I've seen how hard it is to reintegrate after being away from your support system or after facing war head on. And I know the struggles of being a military spouse first hand. I know what it's like to believe that I'm carrying the weight of my family on my shoulders because my husband has something he can't tell me about keeping him at work and away from birthdays, family dinners, anniversiaries and holidays. I understand now why the language is so old fashioned: because this is the kind of life we have to lead in order to stay a family, to create a home, and to feel like we belong.
For the last nine years, I've been emotional on this day. I'm emotional because I was ignorant about what this day means to so many and I'm emotional because I know it unfortunately doesn't mean much to so many. I'm emotional because I'm finally in a community with two Air Force Bases, an Army base and a Military Academy, and I can see how a community can pull together for homecomings, care, and every kind of support you can imagine.
Just because Veterans Day is only one day long and people jump on board to hand out free meals to active duty and Vets, it doesn't mean that we're doing enough. This is a sacrifice that only 1% of our population is willing to make, but it benefits all of us. It doesn't matter where your political beliefs lie, it matters that you take a minute to think about the history of this day, and where you may be if you didn't have a military or service men and women, their spouses and families on their side.
This Veterans day, I am so thankful for the service members that I've gotten to know, the ones I'm related to, and those I will never meet. I understand now what it means to give yourself to your country, and I am forever honored to be among them.