What Veteran's Day Means to Me

By: SHEA ROBARDS / STAFF REPORTER

Five Marine soldiers displaying the American flag. (Photo: LifeJourneys / Getty Images)

Growing up as a military Brat was something I always took pride in. When the leaves turned brown and the snow settled onto the open, paved streets of Buckley Air Force Base in Denver, I felt proud to hear the blare of the trumpet knowing that the base was raising the flag for the day. Saying the pledge of allegiance and singing “I Am Proud To Be an American” with my 8-year-old voice. The pride I feel when I stand at attention at football games is the pride that flowed through me every Monday morning when my mom got ready for work in her Navy Blues.


I’ve been to over 40 states in the two decades I’ve been on this planet. I’ve seen the wonders of the United States: from the Redwoods to the vast Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Ocean to the beasts of Alaska. And through every new state, came a familiar day to remember. One that celebrates and remembers the less than 10% that protect our country and serve overseas for the sake of our Independence.


One Veterans Day always sticks in my mind is my second-grade class had made two blue stars each to stick onto a makeshift American Flag that hung on the wall. As my teacher explained the creation and history of the flag, I sat and wondered which of all those stars could be a state that I had been to.


These memories followed me across the states, from Colorado to California, via Florida to Alaska. Through packed cars on road trips or a single backpack as a carry-on, I traveled to more places in my 12 years of childhood than most adults do in their lives. One place, Wasilla, Alaska, holds the most memories for me, as it was the first state I lived in for more than a year.


Winter in Alaska was never dull. The snow covered the roads with a thin sheet of ice and the trip to Anchorage could be dangerous if you didn’t have four-wheel drive and new treads. I remember waking up every morning at 5 a.m. to see my mom pull out of the driveway on her way to work. She’d wave to me as she backed out onto the snow-covered road.


Now that I’m older I see how little the military is regarded. How little people seem to care about the soldiers overseas defending our country with their lives. How news of a fallen battalion or the pulling of soldiers out of a 20-year war zone will only capture a civilian's mind for two weeks.


It’s sad to think how little people know about the military. Elizabeth Foster, the executive director of the Department Of Defense’s Office of Force Resiliency, explained at a media briefing that the suicide rate among active-duty troops was 24.3 per 100,000 in 2021. Another 38% live with mental illnesses like anxiety, OCD, depression, and PTSD. The latter two make up over 14% of that rate in retired veterans.


I think the worst part of this is how little talk there is about the veterans affected after returning home. 11% of the homeless adult population are veterans. That’s 55,000 veterans among the 664,000 homeless Americans across the country. Although that number varies when thousands of homeless are not included in the count as the population grows and travels too much for the U.S. government to count, veterans undoubtedly make up a significant part of the homeless population.


As I grew older, the blind ignorance of my happy military brat veil slowly dissipated, and I learned of all the suffering that military veterans and active-duty members endure. Veterans return home covered in honorary medals and awarded certificates stating, “Thank you for your service,” a statement that seems to have lost its meaning over the years. And while all this is happening, the one thing they deserve is to be recognized and helped for all the help they have given us.


Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers fight every day to protect our country and die for what they believe in. And it seems our schools — and the nation as a whole — are forgetting that. They send emails, thanking the veterans for their service, instead of actively trying to reach out or promote supporting veterans all over the world.


As the annual Veterans Day Parade marched up 5th avenue last week, in the city that never sleeps, it's a wonder how barely anyone knew it came and went.

4 views0 comments