I grew up in Colorado Springs in between Ent Air Force Base, Fort Carson, and the Air Force Academy. As a kid, I remember our family hosting and entertaining cadets from the Air Force Academy at our house. My dad is a World War II Air Force veteran, my step-dad is Navy vet, and my brother-in-law was a Navy fighter pilot. Still, despite all this, Veterans Day never really held the importance and weight it should have in my life.
I don't think it was until ServiceNation invited the American Heart Association to do a Teaching Garden at Mary Fay Pendleton School at Camp Pendleton that I really, truly appreciated the significance behind Veteran's Day. ServiceNation is an amazing organization that works to bring civilian and military communities together through community service through their Mission Serve initiative. We were asked to partner with them because of our own work with veterans. We are very proud to employ veterans to help us build, maintain, and sustain our gardens, and a Teaching Garden on a military base was a perfect fit. It was a fantastic event, but what made it really memorable for me were all the incredible military families I met and worked with. More than that, it helped reaffirm all of the amazing relationships I had formed with veterans through the Teaching Garden. From all the guys with the Farmer-Veteran Coalition to the Archipleys, who are training soldiers returning from warzones to farm organically and hydroponically. Staff Sergeant Randy Ryan and Corporal Edgar Hercila have been especially wonderful and have since become part of our Teaching Garden family. These men and women are smart, selfless, forward-thinking, mission-oriented, and simply incredible individuals who are returning home to do exciting things in so many different industries.
We need to reframe and redefine what a veteran looks like. Too often we associate veterans with the dirty and forgotten man on the street, whose cardboard sign strives to remind us that he once served our country. But that's not who a veteran is, it's what society has let them become. Who these young men and women are, what they're capable of, and what they've done for us is extraordinary, and we should never forget it.
This year, we look forward to taking our Teaching Garden show on the road to Hawaii. We are thrilled to be working through the Mission Serve initiative to give the children of military families at Hickam Elementary on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam their very own Teaching Garden. Together with our vets, ServiceNation, and our Teaching Garden family, we are proud to be able to bring a little green space and knowledge about what healthy eating is all about to the deserving children of military families.