It’s February, but it’s still Veteran’s Day at our house. Actually, we should probably offer a veteran the greeting, “Happy Securing My Freedom Day” or “Happy Selfless Sacrifice for Our Nation Day”.
The title “veteran” is used widely to talk about every type of retail extravaganza, or to depict young men who may not have lost their lives at war, but rather when they returned from war and are still struggling to make sense of the whole experience. We hear a lot about the losses these young men and women have incurred while in the military, but we don’t hear enough about what they still have to offer when they become military veterans. Once they have left active duty the positive influence they can have on others because of their rigorous training, developed discipline, steadfastness and fortitude are limitless in terms of the influence they can have on people around them.
I can say this out of personal experience. My stepfather faced many challenges as so many brave soldiers did. He fought in Vietnam, was stationed in foreign countries (mainly Italy), thrived in Alaskan conditions and taught many troops how to stay alive and defend our country well. His influence is not limited to the plaques hanging on the wall or the numerous medals that attract my children and fill them with admiration for their grandpa, his military experience has touched everyone who has ever made his acquaintance.
So many of the staff at Balboa Naval Hospital start smiling when they see him. They gravitate toward him knowing that their brief encounter with him will remind them of the #1 rule of survival, keep positive. No matter the circumstances, he’ll have a joke that will quickly get everyone out of the doldrums and roaring up some hearty belly laughs. You know when he’s around, you’re going to forget your troubles and have hope for better things to come.
It’s not all fun and more fun (although usually it is). He still gets up at 5:45 am, makes his bed immediately just as he did in the military. But what he expects of himself, he expects of others as well. My husband, kids and I moved in with him and my mom to help him care for her. I believe in some ways we benefitted the most from the arrangement. My children get up early every morning, making their beds immediately, are never, ever late to school, always complete their assignments and are very well-mannered and respectful at the table, in public and especially with their elders. Although these skills are very important to my husband and I, it has been grandpa’s influence that has really honed them. One of our sons is in his third year at the U.S. Naval Academy. His role model for a military career has been his grandpa. Another one of our sons has set the same goal and understands that if he follows what grandpa has taught him from the military, he too can reap the glories of military honor—–leaving a legacy of discipline, steadfastness, physical and mental fortitude and doing the right thing well.