As a retired military dependent, I have a view of Veteran’s Day that not everyone gets to see. Jud retired after 20 years in the service (plus 4 years before that at a military university). I spent 17 of those years supporting his part in protecting our country. Many people question the need for the kind of military we have, and many question the ethics of war. I, too, question many of those things–especially since my boys reached the age that they have to register for Selective Service. However, today I put that inner and political debate aside and want to honor those who offered themselves up for our country.
Jud, I choose you to represent how I feel about all veterans. You epitomize all the best attributes of who we want to serve our country. You have ethics, integrity, empathy, courage.
I remember arriving as your new bride in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I can still feel the shock when you had to deploy a week after we married. Those twice a month deployments taught us both to value our relationship and carve out regular ‘date nights’ from the beginning of our life together. I remember the ‘bomb me’ vehicles in Germany (the license plates that American military families had with a prominent USA on them). I remember the ‘bomb me’ shiny officer ranks you had to wear on your hat. The joking helped ease the stress of knowing how real the threat of death could be. I know firsthand the long hours, the family’s sacrifice, the delayed holidays, birthdays and anniversaries that come with a 24/7/365 job. I have seen the conflict in your soul as you participated in war and training that pushed the boundaries of sanity. I love you for that conflict and hope that other leaders feel the same. Although most of your military career you participated in top secret missions, as those declassified over the years I’ve had a renewed sense of pride for the lives you saved in issuing warnings. As your career progressed and you began teaching and training younger men about space power and military ethics, my gratitude for veterans increased. We need more people who have digested the ugliness of war and grown in wisdom to come alongside the next generations of soldiers. They need mentors who will help them process what military life shows them. The lectures I got to hear made me see how incredibly gifted you are at communicating philosophical ideas in tangible language. When you took your cadets each class on a ‘field trip’ to the Air Force Academy’s cemetery so that they would think about the legacy of military service, and you showed them Mark’s grave, I wept with you at the end of the day. I remember the 9 months you worked construction after retirement so that you could ‘beat the military out of you.’ After 20 years serving in the military, transitioning from that world to the civilian world created challenges that you faced courageously.
While you served with focus and responsibility, you never insisted that your family conform to a ‘military mindset.’ Thank you for separating your service to our country and your service in your home. Thank you for letting me be your wife and not a military wife. Thank you for letting us always be a team and letting me be your support through those years and beyond. Thank you for making us a priority and embracing our home as your place of refuge from the craziness of bureaucracy. Thank you for recognizing when those bureaucratic rules began to impinge on our family. I love you, respect you, honor you.
I read a statistic a couple of days ago that every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide. 22 suicides a day. We need to feel the weight of gratitude toward our veterans. Many of them have sacrificed physically, mentally and emotionally for our country. Many of them leave the military broken physically, mentally and emotionally as they have seen things no one was created to see. Many of them struggle to lead ‘normal’ lives after their service. I am thankful that our healthcare system is dispelling the stigma of mental health issues. We need to dispel those stigmas outside the medical community so that shame does not keep us from vulnerably sharing the struggles with depression, anxiety, PTSD and all the other disorders that our brain develops as we try to cope with severe trauma.
Our veterans continue to define ‘heroic’ when they seek help and healing. If you know a suffering veteran, encourage them to exemplify heroism to us all by humbling themselves and using the health benefits they have earned.
Thank you to all veterans for your service and sacrifice to our country. We owe it to you to support and encourage you and your families when you transition out of military service and back into the civilian world.