REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama —The excitement was almost electric when I dropped my kids off at school this morning. You could feel the energy pulsing in the halls and the current of conversation was all about the day’s big event: the Veterans Day program.
As I sat and sipped my coffee waiting for my husband to arrive, I reflected on the morning’s progress so far. My usual challenge of rousing my girls was effortless – they were up and fully dressed before I was – and all because their Soldier dad was coming to school for Veterans Day. It was, apparently, a VERY big deal.
As I observed and listened to the hallway chatter, I heard snippets of conversation. “My mom is a veteran – she’s coming!” “My grandpa is a veteran – he’s coming!” These were endearing to hear, but not surprising. It’s totally natural for immediate relatives to come and support their kids’ and grandkids’ school events.
What did surprise me, however, were those with no familial relation showing up as a guest of a student, or as a supporter of the school. As the program commenced, students and their veterans were announced and then walked under the sabers of an honor guard, getting the full VIP treatment for all in attendance to recognize.
Some who came with the students were announced as friends of the family, others as neighbors. Some of the older veterans who were invited by the school to participate were solo and announced as friends of the school.
Every single one of them was treated like a rock star and cheered by a gym full of pre-kindergarteners to eighth graders. Every. Single. One.
It struck me, as I looked around at little hands waving clutched American flags that, as military families, we often take for granted that everyone has a veteran in their lives. That everyone has someone to set the example of selfless service for them. That everyone has someone who took an oath to protect and defend our nation.
We forget that many of those little flag-waving hands, cheering at the events, want to have a veteran, too. They want to have a special person on Veterans Day to stand proudly next to and declare to the world, “This is MY veteran!”
When you look at the statistics of people who have served in uniform, it’s an astonishingly small number when compared to the rest of the population. And it’s getting smaller by the minute.
Whether through the passing on of those who served in prior wars, or simply the lack of those currently enlisting or commissioning, our supply of veterans is dwindling. And friends, that simply is “unsat” (to employ a phrase often used by veterans when the situation isn’t satisfactory).
So, for those veterans still hearing a call to duty, here is a challenge to you: find a young person who may not have a veteran in their life and be THEIR veteran.
It might be a neighbor, it might be the child of a co-worker, it might be someone you already mentor. Talk to them about your service. Let them know you care about them, and their Veterans Day activities at school.
Be the one to teach them about the importance of selfless service, duty and honor. Be the one who inspires their own service to their community.
Be the one to teach them to be all they can be.
It’s an investment worth your time. Your military leadership and mentorship experience could be the key to their success. Being THEIR veteran could have far-reaching impacts for our nation that you can’t even begin to imagine.
Just take the first step, sow the seeds of service, sit back and watch them grow.
You might just grow a Soldier.