When you think of the most important men and women in your lives, how many are veterans or family members of those who served our country? In my family, every generation has served our country for over 200 plus years. We served with George Washington and serve under President Obama.
You would think we are a family of warriors. We are not; we are men and women who understand the importance of serving a greater purpose. These family members have served here at home and stationed all around the world. Like many of our neighbors, family members, and friends, these veterans stand for freedom and independence.
Now we take time to honor these brave people who have put their lives on the line to maintain our freedom. So what makes a person decide to serve their country? What’s interesting when you get to know them, you discover they are not much different than you and me, the difference might be they all seem to have a quiet confidence in what they do. They volunteered for many reasons, and they didn’t always know what was ahead, but they decided to make a difference in the world. When you talk with them, they didn’t always see it this way. Few see themselves as heroes, but they are. It takes courage to be a member of our military family.
Some would say they felt called; others were looking to provide a better life for their families. Many selected the service because they wanted more out of their lives. Some veterans would follow their passions. For others, it was a clear sense of duty and love of country. It doesn’t matter why they chose, what matters is what they became with this choice. They became part of something that continues to keep our world safe for generations.
As I spend time with older service people from the Viet Nam and Korean wars, I am reminded of certain times in our history when our service people came home to an ungrateful country and horrific homecomings. For many, it took many years for them to be appreciated for what they did and became. Many never get over the nightmares of being in battle. It is unimaginable to understand what they lived through. When we spend time talking with these lonely warriors, we should remind them they are loved and forgiven. If you’ve ever visited a nursing home or VA hospital and spent time with one of these heroes you realize how blessed your life is because of what they sacrificed for us. We must make sure that they and their families are always taken care of.
My grandmother used to tell me stories about my grandfather coming home from war in his uniform. The pride and respect she felt for what he had gone through in the Navy. She knew war well, having grown up in a family of warriors in a violent Europe in the early 20th century before World War One. She had seen war first hand on the faces and bodies of her father and countrymen. When you looked into her face, you could still see the pride of being a military family as my cousins decided to serve.
Many years later, when I went to Washington DC, I could still hear her voice reminding me the honor it was to serve my country. Our family, like so many in our communities, took pride in serving our country in both times of war and peace. We are proud of the veterans from our families.
Why is it important to remember our veterans this weekend? Is it because we would not have our freedom without their sacrifice? Is it because some of these men and women make the ultimate sacrifice? Yes, it’s this, and much more.
We should honor these people for what they gave up to serve. We should honor these people for what they sacrificed to protect our families and communities. We should honor these people for all the pain they had to go through, the losses we will never understand, the friendships they lost forever because they chose to serve. I’ve never met a veteran who doesn’t remember a story about basic training or about being deployed somewhere around the world with strangers who became close friends in times of war…only to be lost forever.
Thank you for all of you who served. For families and friends who help our service members during challenging times in their lives, thank you. We will never forget the sacrifices you made for our freedom. We will never forget the courage you displayed and lives you changed by serving.
Take time to show your appreciation to veterans this weekend.
See you next week.
This article was originally published here at Developing Serving Leaders for Memorial Day 2013.