The mere mention of Veterans Day conjures up images of war-worn soldiers ready to give their lives for ours - but there are other veterans who go unnoticed. My husband is one of those veterans. He didn't serve in war, but he served his country in another way.
I didn't lie awake at night wondering if he would ever return. My children didn't fear that he was gone forever. We didn't live the horror that only a family with a member off to war can understand. To say we didn't sacrifice would be untrue. We suffered the same empty place at the table, the same lonely nights, and the same sense of uncertainty that others suffered. No one seemed to notice, because he wasn't off to war.
It didn't occur to me then - as it likely hasn't occurred to you now - that the demons the soldier who remains at home faces are of a different sort. It doesn't occur to us, in part because most of us are woefully ignorant of the true ravages of war, and in part, because their lives were not in danger. After all, even when separated from their families these soldiers were safe and warm in military housing far from the front line of war. They had it easy - or so we want to believe.
When my husband returned from training thousands of young men about to ship out to Iraq, he was different in an indiscernible way. He still looked the same. His arms and legs were all intact -- a part of his heart was not - but I didn't understand. It wasn't until one of the men he trained was lost in battle and I saw him recounting the training he had provided, that I began to understand.
For many the term Veteran is reserved for those who served in war. Crowds herald the war soldier's return, speeches are made, and newscasts are filmed. Tears of joy and unspeakable sorrow flow as families reunite - but for the other soldiers who served their country on US soil, their return is met with silence, as they wonder if giving their best was good enough to save the lives of those entrusted in their care.
War touches the heart and soul of every soldier and his family, regardless of where he is stationed or the tasks he performs. For me, they are all veterans, as they have served their time protecting our country.
Today, I give my thanks to all the Veterans, whether they served on the homeland, or traveled to foreign soil. Each has faced his private demons in the course of exorcising the demons of war.
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