To you, and especially to all who served happy Veterans Day!
While thinking about the meaning behind the day, I came across an editorial in the Washington Post from a few years back. It was written by a veteran named J. Mark Jackson, who served in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in Afghanistan in 2009. In the article, he answers the
the question, “What does it mean to be a veteran?”
Obviously, his words on the subject are far more meaningful than mine. So, in honor of Veterans Day, I thought I’d share a few of Jackson’s thoughts on being a veteran. They really highlight why the day is so important. (I highly recommend you take the time to read the entire editorial, which I have linked to at the bottom of the next page.)
What Does It Mean to Be a Veteran?
by J. Mark Jackson, originally published on November 10, 2016 in the Washington Post1
“What does it mean, on a day-to-day basis, to be a veteran? To this Army veteran, it means:
- Fourth of July fireworks sound surprisingly like a mortar attack.
- …and a nail gun sounds startlingly like the bark of an AK-47 when heard in the distance.
- Wondering, when I forget how I filed my tax return the previous year, if I am suffering from a case of undiagnosed traumatic brain injury or if I just forgot.
- Wondering, when I miss words in a conversation, whether it is from hearing loss from the close rattle of a machine gun or if I was just not paying attention.
- Finding a lump in my throat and tears welling in my eyes when I see images of a crying mother or wife holding a flag folded into a triangle.
- Waking up desperately searching for my rifle while my wife softly says, ‘It’s all right, it’s all right; you are home.’
- Buying a red paper poppy whenever I see another veteran selling them and calling him ‘brother’ when the exchange is made.
- Being unable to throw those paper poppies away, ever.
- Perpetual promptness. No event is too unimportant not to arrive early.
- Maintaining a slightly obsessed fetish with how a bed is made, with emphasis on the corners.
- Feeling positive about the next strong and dedicated generation of future veterans to whom we handed the baton of service.
- A surge of engulfing pride, like a warm shiver, when the American flag passes or during the singing of the national anthem.
- Grasping the knowledge that peace is eminently more precious than any state of war, regardless of the justification. Veterans know the cost of peace firsthand, and that cost has a first name, a last name, a middle initial, and parents.
Reading that makes it just a little clearer to me how much veterans have given, and continue to give, for our community, our nation, and our freedom. There are no words I can say, no gift I can give, that could ever repay my personal debt to those who served. But with
every word of kindness, every act of service, and every expression of gratitude, we can at least
make up that debt a little.
We can let veterans know that we know, if only a little, what it means to be a veteran.
On behalf of Tina, my family, and I, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all our veterans. Thank you for going “over there.” Thank you for your sacrifice. And thank you, most of all, for coming home.
And again, I wish you a happy Veterans Day.
J. Mark Jackson, “What does it mean to be a veteran?” The Washington Post, November 10, 2016.