At this year's commemoration of the September 11th attacks, President Bush said, "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." I wondered to myself: How many people would I be willing to give my life for. My answer was simply my children. That's it. Yet, countless Americans have volunteered for such a responsibility since the founding of our country; men and women have pledged their life in the name of freedom, so the rest of us can enjoy the fruits of that sacrifice.
Our country only sets aside three calendar days to pay homage to the unique contributions to our nation's democracy. Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Veteran's Day tend to be the moments when Americans reflect on military service. Being a Marine Corps wife, things like combat, Dept. of Defense casualty notifications and those left behind are on my mind daily. So how do we connect the two communities? How do I allow you to see, through my eyes, the remarkable heroes that I am exposed to every single day? Whether you believe in the warfronts we have been serving on or are against the current wars, there are ways to always be for the troops.
When our news headlines are consumed with economic despair, unemployment and political discourse, it's easy to become complacent about what's happening in foreign places. Troop causalities, scores of wounded coming home and homeless veterans are not forefront in the minds of Americans because they are engulfed in their own hardships. But despite all of the troubles our country has, we must remember that we've sent thousands of men and women to duty, on foreign soil, and the only way to thank them is to pledge our own service to country. Your service doesn't have to look like theirs, but it should reflect the gallant commitment.
Serve Them: A great many organizations in the U.S. provide support programs and resources to the military community. I've had the privilege of volunteering with some of them while my own family has benefitted from their steadfast support. They're always in need of helping hands, and you can pledge whatever amount of time or donations that you are comfortable with. They are:
• American Red Cross
• Blue Star Families
Support Them: After their active-duty status changes to inactive, many veterans pursue new careers. Whether they are entrepreneurs or they are job-hunting, you can assist them in having a successful career by supporting veteran-owned businesses or encouraging your own company to hire these patriots. The Buy Veteran campaign (www.buyveteran.com) offers a database where you can search for veteran-owned businesses in your area. And as 40,000 troops make their way home from Iraq in the coming weeks, many will be looking for their next assignment in life. You can partner with the Chamber of Commerce, in their efforts to 'hire the heroes,' by pledging your business to offer jobs at those job fairs happening around the country.
Thank Them: Finally, find simple ways to say thank you. Small gestures speak volumes. For example, host a deployment package party in your local community to ship comfort items to those still deployed, adopt a troop through Soldiers' Angels (www.soldiersangels.org), or visit veteran' homes and wounded warriors hospitals to let them know they haven't been forgotten. Additionally, there are military recruitment centers in communities throughout the country. If you live near one, then there are military families living near you who would probably love to meet you. These are just some of the possibilities; you can connect yourself to your military force in whatever way fits you best.
I'm fortunate. I get to live a life surrounded by real-life superheroes. Because of them, I can choose to be whatever I want to be in my life. Because of them, I can watch my own three boys grow up in a country where the sky is the limit. And because of them, I can sleep safe at night knowing that there are men and women brave enough to defend our country at a moment's notice. As the calendar turns to Nov. 11 this year, find your own way to pay tribute to the 1% of America who volunteer on your behalf to lay their lives on the line.
To the veterans of our country: There are no words eloquent enough to show my gratitude for what you and your families give up on behalf of our citizenry. I can only hope to live my life with a fraction of the integrity you have displayed with your unspoken commitment. On behalf of a very grateful nation, I say thank you.