Imagine it, you serve a year-long deployment in the Middle East. You’re away from your family, friends, everything you know – every creature comfort. You did your job, followed orders, completed your mission, and now it’s time to go home. When you land on the tarmac in the dead of night, there’s no fanfare. No crowds of family members waving banners and signs, cheering your return. The fanfare needs to wait until you’re done redeploying, turning in your gear, and checking off the lists. But then it’s all done and you’re finally going to be reunited with your loved ones. Only it’s not the fanfare you and your fellow soldiers deserve. There are no cheering crowds, or signs, or flags waving. Instead it’s a brief formation in a dilapidated room on post and then that’s it.
This is exactly what happened after my husband returned from his first deployment in 2006. It was a shock to both of us. We had seen the celebratory reunions on the nightly news. It was a let down. It was a harsh end to a year of sacrifice.
There is no tell-tale sign of a veteran. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are twenty-two million living veterans in our country. Twenty-two million veterans! These men and women have made amazing sacrifices in the service of our country. The least we can do as a nation is express our appreciation. President Eisenhower had the same thought and, in 1954, he signed a proclamation that each year on November 11th, the United States and its citizens acknowledge the sacrifice our veterans have made to ensure not only our country’s safety but also the safety of our allies.
My husband is one of those twenty-two million veterans. I want his hard work and sacrifice dignified. After the experience we had after his first deployment, I made it my mission to make sure he would never be welcomed home like that again. When he deployed again in 2009, I immediately sought out partners who would not only help make his unit’s welcome home worthy of their service, but I also made sure they weren’t forgotten while they were separated from their families. I was shocked and touched by all of the people who came out to help me make my mission a reality. Their help made all the difference, and when my husband and his unit came home in 2010, their homecoming was one full of the acknowledgment and appreciation they deserved.
Acknowledging a veteran doesn’t have to be a monumental task. Many veterans like my husband, don’t like their service to be called out. That doesn’t mean we should let their efforts go unnoticed. There are numerous ways to say “thank you”. Donations of your time or resources to organizations that support veterans, such as DAV (Disabled American Veterans), can help those veterans that need the most support. Lobbying your elected officials to champion veterans’ interest can help ensure veterans receive the support they were promised. And, of course, a simple “thank you for your service and welcome home” is a perfect and genuine way to acknowledge a veteran in your life.
Share your veteran’s story and your appreciation with others by using DAV’s Thank A Vet web tool. The tool allows you to use your favorite photos of your veteran and add a message of appreciation. You can share the video on your social media channels and encourage others to do the same.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of DAV (Disabled American Veterans). The opinions and text are mine own. DAV is a leading nonprofit organization that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families whenever they need it, transforming lives in positive ways. Create your own video today and share on social media using #ThankAVet.