At the end of the day, as all veterans, I am a testament to the community that has taken me in, sheltered me from the storm when needed and encouraged me to brave the tempest when it was best course of action to advance my life. You did not see me as a project to be fixed or a statistic to be changed. You saw in me your own salvation: that if you could intertwine my skills and potential with your own all of America would be better for the task. Thank you.
I am lucky that in my journey as a veteran, I have avoided what radio talk show host and military veteran himself, Boone Cutler, calls 'pity without promise.' Those who serve others to make themselves feel better have had little luck in reaching me. It is because I am lucky to have been surrounded by many, who though they may not always be veterans of the U.S. military, in the words of my good friend John Mackedon, "walked with [me] every time I left the wire," regardless of where physically they may have been. They extended a hand up, not a hand out, and are still pulling me up.
It is to these people I wish to thank as well as the many others who have served, are serving, and will serve in the spirit of Veterans Day. The military and veteran spouses, partners, boyfriends, and girlfriends who bear the brunt and consequence of physical and emotional trauma and reintegration challenges more forcibly than anyone will ever know; all deserve thanks. The organizations who give countless hours, the donors who have given countless dollars, our allied nations who have also given countless of their own sons and daughters to our cause; all deserve our thanks.
The often beleaguered and too often embattled staff at the VA, doing the best with the flood of claims and service members who desperately need support; all deserve thanks. My Iraqi translators, the people of Baghdad and Khadimya neighborhood who fought daily to reshape their country into a democracy; all deserve thanks. My family and friends, most met, some known only through social media, who have supported me, challenged me, and helped me to keep climbing higher; all deserve thanks. My colleagues, classmates, and teammates from Ole Miss to Penn, SC1880 in Frankfurt, Veterans Green Jobs, the one time Henry Rollins wrote back to me when I was struggling in Philadelphia, the Mayor's Office in Chicago, VetEx, the American Alpine Club, the San Luis Valley, and now the Sierra Club; the collection of misfits and refugees who know me best from Angola to Abkhazia, Bosnia and everywhere in between; thanks to you all.
I hope you all had a happy Veterans Day, and maybe even got a good deal on a mattress.