Do you know a Veteran? One that served years ago or recently? If you do, know this! They hurt. They won't tell you they hurt, but they do. Heaven forbid if they lost a brother in combat... If that is the case or they saw war time, they hurt more than you and I could or ever could know. If you are married to one who lost someone in battle, love them more than you ever loved them before. If you know one or are married to one that saw battle, love them more than you ever loved them before. If you are a parent of a child (and yes, whether they have been to war or not, they are still your child), love them more than you ever have before.
These young men and women NEED us. They may NEVER tell us that, but they need us. They have seen and experienced things that no one should ever see or experience, but more than that, they don't know how to relate to you or myself anymore. They might feel lost. They might feel pain we don't even comprehend. Love them! Love them hard and without ceasing.
Our Veterans and our men and women currently serving need us to love them unconditionally. So many of us do not know what loving someone unconditionally means, but let me break it down the easiest way I know how. That means you love them NO MATTER WHAT! Regardless of how they do or DO NOT show emotion or how they are feeling. No matter how they treat you or those around them. No matter how they react to things like a car accident, fireworks, the National Anthem! Love them!
My heart breaks as much for the guys Chad left behind than even for Chad. Chad is in a better place, but for those friends he left behind, they are struggling to move forward. Some are experiencing divorce, some have depression, some don't know what to do next. Yes, could their marriages been struggling before? Sure. Could they have had underlining issues that caused depression to be more evident than it might have otherwise been? You bet, but one thing if for certain. They have seen things and felt things you and I will never experience and they shouldn't have to, especially at their young ages.
At a time when this country is more aware of war time than times past (although that breaks my heart) I still don't think the general public truly gets it. These guys are kids! They are between the ages of 18 years old and less than 30 years old (on average)... What were you doing at those ages? My guess is you were NOT fighting in a war and seeing your friends/brothers/sisters die in the line of fire. It's just a guess, but I would almost put money on the fact that most of us will NEVER see that in our life time. Why does anyone think that is something you just get over when you come home? Well, let me tell you as the "bonus mom" of many of these young men. You do NOT get over it! You live with it 24/7 and your relationships, jobs, LIFE suffer the consequences of what they have seen. They deal with the fact that they promised someone they would bring their loved one home and didn't. They deal with survival's guilt. They deal with the fact that they made a promise to each other that they would take care of the family that was left behind for the rest of their lives. They live with the nightmares every night when they TRY to close their eyes and not remember. They live with all this on top of trying to be "normal" in their every day lives. There is NOTHING "normal" anymore. These young men and women have seen things they should not ever see in their life time and they have experienced losses no one their age should have to experience, especially in the way they have lost.
Yes, is our country as a whole more aware of our Veterans than ever before? You bet, but is enough being done to help these young men and women? I am not so sure. I'm one person and every other "Gold Star" parent are only one person at a time wanting to make things better for these young men and women our sons and daughters have left behind and all the while these young men and women do not want to burden us and they want to FIX what they know in their hearts they can't fix.
LOVE THEM! I don't care what you have going on in your life right now, you still have the capacity to love these young men and women when you get the chance. Whether it's a hand shake, a thank you, a free meal, a donation to a worthy military cause, or a helping hand (not a hand out). Whatever it might be, you have the capacity to do that. We all do. I can do more and I vow to do so, but there has to be more than just myself and my family. It will take the entire country. It will take OUR PRESIDENT, each American citizen... "They" say it takes a village to raise our children... Really? How about it takes a country to raise our HEROES! That's how I feel. I want to protect every young man/woman that served with Chad. I want them to feel love and security. Some are out and in the civilian world (and struggling, some can't freaking find jobs, really?) and some are still active. LOVE THEM! Our Veterans should NEVER NOT have a job. It's our duty and responsibility to ensure each and every one of them returning from war has a decent job and one they can be proud of. After all, when we were all having Christmas morning or birthdays or Thanksgiving or I don't know, just a Saturday morning in our living room, they were in a war zone. Don't you think that deserves something more than an "Atta Boy"? WELL, I DO! If I could hire every Veteran and wrap each and every young man/woman in my arms that lost someone I would. My son is in a better place than these young men and women who returned home without all their brethren in arms... This much I know for sure. I didn't technically go to war, but I was there and a piece of me will forever live in Afghanistan, but for those young men that came home without Chad will forever live in their own hell and that breaks my heart more than not having my son on this earth. My son is safe and ok for the first time since he lived in my house and slept in his own bed under my roof. These young men and women are still fighting a war that I will be damned will win over them. If I'm left on this earth without my son for any other reason in this world, but to make sure my son's buddies are ok, then so be it. It's not just his buddies from war, it's his best friends he went to school with that are going through the next stage in their lives without him. They struggle every day and while it might be different than what his brothers in arms live through every day, it's still their own war they fight every day.
Thank a military man/woman EVERY TIME you see one and make sure you do something selfless every chance you can, because they do it daily.
Thank you to all our military, past, present, and future! You ARE appreciated for all you do and all you do without.