My father served in the Army and my Grandmother (his mom) was an Army nurse at Lettermans in SF. Combine this with numerous family members that have served in almost every war, well, we have a lot of tradition regarding Veteran’s Day. When I was younger and one of my brothers was serving in Vietnam, I came to know what war was and later what a Veteran was as well. Although he came home with his body intact, we learned first-hand what PTSD was, although there wasn’t a name for it at the time. Since my brothers were all older than me, I was the one left at home to help pour the concrete in our back yard for our flag pole, and when it was finished, who helped my Dad fly our American Flag for the first time. I remember how proud he looked when he pulled that halyard to raise the flag and when he tied it off, he just looked up at it for a while, in silence. I know now that he wasn’t really there with me, but that he was with his buddies and thinking of my brother in Vietnam right then. My dad never spoke about WWII and what he saw and all my brother would say about Vietnam was that he was glad he was home. My Mom lived in Oakland, California during the Korean War (she was in High School) and she would tell us stories about the blackouts, the sirens, and being so scared that she would run home as quickly as possible. Other than that all that my Mom has ever said about the Korean War was that so many of her high school friends perished that she had vowed to never wear black again. That makes you stop and think.
When one of my brothers became an Airborne Ranger was when I took more of an interest in the military and was planning on joining when I graduated from high school. (I didn’t sign up but that’s another story.) This particular brother, that I was used to playing army men with, that I would bug the heck out of while he was in Boy Scouts, and followed everywhere was suddenly a soldier. I couldn’t wait for him to come home from Bootcamp! I collected military patches, learned how to make a tight, smooth rack, and joined the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets when I was in high school. I even asked for and got a GI Joe for my 6th birthday!
Because of my dad, we were raised to respect and honor our flag and knew what it represented. That’s what I have taught to my own sons. To me, honoring our Veterans isn’t about flying the flag on certain holidays but knowing when, how and where to display it properly and why. It means knowing what it stands for and how it came to be. To me, because of our Veterans, those who fought for liberty, freedom at all costs, who stood up for what is right and led the way, no matter what the odds were, they deserve our respect no matter what. They are, and were, the ones putting their life on the line so that the rest of us can enjoy our day-to-day activities. Now that my oldest son is serving, I vowed to do all that I can as his parent to support him in this decision, to stand behind him cheering him on. To keep watch over his wife and daughters while he is gone as he asked me to. To thank every soldier I meet for their service to our country. He and others that are actively serving, and those who have served, need to know that we remember their service and that we appreciate all that they have done. I promised my son to do all that I can to help out here at home, visiting wounded soldiers when I can, volunteer at the USO or wherever to share a smile when needed, and work along with, and help, other Moms and families, because we are all a part of keeping our Country strong, and because now, whether he knows it or not, he is my hero.