When I first set out to write this post, I intended it to be a retrospective about the service of my grandfather, who served stateside in the US Army during World War II. With Veterans Day happening tomorrow I thought it would be a fitting post to write.
However as I sat here at the keyboard it occurred to me, in a way it never had before, that I really don’t know much of anything about my grandfather’s service record. It wasn’t a topic that came up very frequently in my childhood, and as cancer took him from us when I was only twelve and he lived half the country away, I never personally spoke with him about it.
In fact, as I’ve thought about it I realize that I don’t know much about the service of any of my relatives on that side who served in the armed forces, and there have been quite a few. I know two of my great uncles served in the European theater of World War II and when their units happened to be passing relatively close to each other the army made special arrangements for them to meet up and see each other for a few hours. I know my grandfather was unable to serve overseas due to a medical issue. I know my uncle joined the Navy during the Vietnam era. That’s about the extent of the knowledge I have of the military record from my mother’s side of the family.
Part of my lack of knowledge here is simply due to the fact that my extended family is so spread out across the country and my particular branch, living in Wyoming, is somewhat isolated from the rest. Still, the veterans in my family don’t much care to discuss their service except on rare occasion.
So when Veterans Day comes around I try to honor my relatives’ service in much the way they prefer to discuss it. I don’t dwell on the details I know of their service or spend a lot of time thinking about it. I simply turn my thoughts to the fact of it for a few moments, inwardly thank them for what they’ve done for my country, and move on with my day. I like to think this is a fitting tribute to a group of service members who prefer to speak of other things.
While we’re on the subject, for anyone who has read this far I have a request. Please don’t be a bother to any veterans you see tomorrow. Yes, many who have served like to be thanked for it. But remember that a lot of them don’t like being reminded of what they’ve experienced, and many have other things going on in their lives and are just trying to make it through the day. Thank them, if you feel compelled to do so, but please try not to be pushy or demanding about it. Your desire to thank them for their service does not entitle you to their time, so please be considerate and remember that thanking a veteran is not about you.
Have a good day.