POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Veteran's Day: Your Stories and Memories

In honor of Veteran's Day, the HuffPost asked readers to send in stories and videos about those who served and how war has impacted your life. You can share your story here. We received an overwhelming response from veterans themselves, as well as their friends and family members. Here is what people wrote:

Charla A. from Killeen, Texas spoke movingly about the loss--in one sense--of her brother:

I lost my brother in Iraq. As is customary, two soldiers never knocked on the door to my family's home to bring us the news of his departure.

We never had to go through the painstaking task of planning a funeral. There was no obituary to submit, no memorial service to attend. No one called to offer their prayers, support, or condolences. It was not necessary to put his last affairs in order, no business was left unfinished.

He was not married, and leaves behind no children of his own. He does leave a grieving mother, a brother who used to be his right-hand man, two younger sisters, a nephew who adores him, and countless other friends and family members.

Our grief process did not start immediately after we lost him, but it lingers and persists to this day. We miss his once easy smiles, his presence, and his personality. Today, nothing is the same, and day after day we wonder when things will go back to normal; if things will go back to normal. All we know is that there is nothing we can do to ease our loss, to stop the pain.

We will hold on to the memories, and we all look back and remember the good times we shared with him.

When I say I lost my brother in Iraq, most people would assume he is dead. Contrary to that, he is alive; living and breathing. We didn't lose my brother to an IED, a roadside bomb, friendly fire, or intense enemy combat. We lost him to a battle he fights daily within his own mind; mental illness. When he returned, none of his injuries were visible, he seemed to come back and fit right back into things. It took months for us to realize that the young lively Army private that we dreadfully sent to Iraq, never returned. Instead, we got a person that none of us recognize.

It is hard to be around a person you love while they are mentally ill, because that person is no longer who you have always known them to be.

On this veteran's day, I just want people to realize that the effects of war are long-lasting, and that there are thousands of veterans and active duty soldiers who suffer silently. They are dying inside, fighting battles within themselves that many of us could never, will never, understand. Many families are in my family's shoes; they have sent soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, only to have them return and be completely different people.

Pray until something happens, and never give up hope. God bless my family and yours, God bless America!

Dennis Sprague from Murphy, North Carolina asks us to remember the lessons of past wars and how they affected those who fought in them:

I was in the Marine Corp from '65 to '69; all of '66 in Vietnam. I just recently learned about being exposed to Agent Orange; Dioxin. Of the 30 or so symptoms listed for Dioxin, I have about 20. My hearing was bad enough to keep me from becoming a police officer after I got out, and the ringing in my ears hasn't stopped since qualifying in boot camp. I have also just learned that I probably can't get any medical help from the VA. All of this doesn't matter. What does matter is that the lesson of the futility of the War was lost; no one remembers or cares and it continues today for a new generation. Damn the "military industrial complex."

Jim Pankey from Hemet, California is proud to be part of the veterans community:

I'm a Vietnam veteran and spent almost 3 years in the Armed Forces Retirement Home (formerly Naval Home) in Gulfport, Mississippi. I was privileged to get to know men and women of the various branches of services from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, lesser known military actions like Panama Lebanon, and Kosovo...when I left in 2005 it was a sad departure for me, leaving this Home of Heroes and seeing the beginning of its demise.

The spirit of the members of the armed services is alive and well, and I am proud to have served.

I lost friends and relatives in wars, and my family on both sides lost members in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The enemies were human, too, and lost even more. I think war is terrible and should be a last resort, not the spearhead of diplomacy.

Here's to the souls of the lost. Rest In Peace.

Dave McGrath from Idaho Falls, Idaho laments how little care veterans receive when they return home:

When I left the service, there was no party, no transition service, no support. This wasn't so long ago. No education. No preparation for what's next.

I've made it - and made it well - but all without support of any "mechanism" to ease me back into the "system" or at least to civilian life. I had the Montgomery Bill - but who has time to use it when you are raising a family? The bills are NOW - and they aren't waiting for school.

And my transition was in the best of times - between wars, with a nation flush with cash.

I don't think past vets had it any better.

I don't think current vets have it any better.

America - you don't care for your warriors - unless they are dead. And then you just give them sterile monuments of steel, bronze or marble. That is cold comfort.

I have siblings who have served. And now I have children who serve. I am proud to have served - and proud of their service. But I warn them: your nation does not care for you, and will not care for you - whether come back broken or seemingly whole. You are doing this for you. You are doing this for your hope. You are doing this for what you think can be - what could be. You are doing this for what should be.

Tomorrow I will go to work. For a government institution. Tomorrow (if it is like every other Veteran's Day for the last 13 years since I left my beloved service) no one will say "Thank you." No one will recognize the service. No one will acknowledge that there is a warrior in their midst. Of course corporate will send their obligatory email. But my coworkers don't even know. The fact of service is an embarrassment to them - it means something is probably wrong with me.

But, its OK. I didn't do it for them. I did it for me. For what I hope for. For what can be. For what I hope should be. It is good they don't realize that they are dependent upon the sacrifices of others like me. For what they have. For their dull, dull lives.

Douglas Stevens from Lindstrom, Minnesota wonders why soldiers who fought in the cold war aren't considered veterans:

I am an unemployed veteran, without health insurance coverage, unqualified for VA benefits because I only spent 6 years in the Army during the Cold War. My comrades and I were guarding Pershing nuclear missiles 80 km from communist Germany. We helped bring down the Berlin Wall. People died in our unit.

Yet we are disregarded as veterans. We won our war, on the front lines, on alert most of the time. Yet, we do not qualify for VA benefits.

Maybe someday, we will ALL be counted as soldiers with equal rights.

Finally, David Trevino from Lavonia, Georgia, who hails from a family with a tradition of military service, gives us his perspective about the nature of war.

War is a motherfucker, man.

All that energized metal can really jack you up.
Seriously.
Put you in a gallon-sized body bag.
Put your mangled bits in wheel chair for life.
Put your head in a scary place.
It's a bad thing to get into.

I know.
I was a captain of Marines during Desert Dumb-Dumb.

It is a motherfucker.

And not just for the dudes dressed as shrubs.
Pretty rough on their kids, too.
Looking at someone else's daddy come home missing parts.
Looking at someone else's daddy come home in a box.
Looking on the evening news for your daddy.
It's some awful shit to lay on a child.

I know.
My father was a colonel of Marines during Vietnam.

War
is an absolute
motherfucker.

Unless,
of course,
you're selling GI socks to Uncle Sugar.

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