Veterans Day: real sacrifice

Mikayla Logue

What holiday means to military families

 

One of my earliest memories I have is from when I was five years old.

Early in the morning, while there was still a hint of darkness clearing out of the sky, my mom woke me up and led me to our desktop computer.

There was an email waiting for me from my dad. He was in the middle of his deployment in Iraq, a deployment that would last almost a year.

In my family, we have spent years waiting for my father and my older brother to return home from deployment.

Living without family members was not unusual, it was normal.

Despite not having my dad and brother physically present in my life for years, they still taught me the strongest values I have today, the values that are ingrained deeply into Veterans Day, but are often not understood.

When most people think of Veterans Day, they think of sacrifice. Everyone understands that veterans make sacrifices for their country, but most don’t know what this sacrifice actually looks like.

Sacrifice is all the birthdays and holidays missed, the long-anticipated phone calls, emails and postcards.

It’s my father not being able to see his baby daughter, my sister, grow up, take her first steps, and say her first word.

It’s the calendar, marked up, counting down the days, weeks and months.

It’s the belief in the hope of return and the refusal to think of the fear of loss. It’s the willingness to be away from home, to give up one’s life.

Veterans are willing to give up their lives, to sacrifice for their country. When we talk about sacrifice, it is not about what is lost, but what is gained.

But what is this sacrifice even for? What do we have to gain from these heroic choices?

Yes, sacrifice is for American values of freedom and rights, but it’s also for a universal value: love.

They have given us our freedom, our rights, our protection, but they give us a model of love as well. This love comes from their willingness to serve.

Veterans serve not for themselves, but for their country, nation, fellow citizens, neighbors, friends and family. They choose us every day before themselves so we can have a better life.

Veterans are the prime example of service to us, and this should be celebrated and praised.

However, their example is deserves more than a simple thank you, it deserves to be followed, not just by future veterans, but by the people they choose to serve and love.
What would we look like as a country if we followed their example and put others before ourselves?

Even though many of us are not called to serve the way that veterans serve us, we can still honor the endless sacrifices of veterans.

We can stand up for one another, our freedom, our values. We can love the people who agree and disagree with us. We can serve them before we choose ourselves.

In an ever-increasingly divided country with polarizing politics, this nation needs to be united more than ever. We can take what we learn from veterans and be a united force, one that chooses love and respect.

Veterans Day is more than an extra vacation and a day off or even just an opportunity to thank a veteran for their service.

It’s a chance, a moment, to realize what veterans have chosen to give up to serve and love others.