Quick question: Are we doing enough? Nowadays, the answer is likely a resounding ‘Yes!’. We run, we jog, we text, we work, we call, we sing, we laugh, we blog, we talk, we meet, we teach, we wait. One thing is for certain: these are some trying times. Global pandemic, job loss, job shortages, economic crises; there is no shortage of things to worry about or things to do. Keeping things straight in our heads, managing calendars and appointments, remembering birthdays, and the like are just a few of the items on the list of things to do as we fly through our days in a blur. Pair that with family obligations, friendship maintenance, teleworking, and general responsibilities it’s a wonder how we make it through these days, right? Plus, we’re veterans? Whoa.
So, how do we manage?
It seems that no one truly understands us but us. Sure, we smile like everyone else, we laugh like everyone else, and we hurt like everyone else, but we are not made like everyone else. There is another layer to us—an invisible layer of something else. For instance, on a moment’s notice, we are ready. Ready for something. Ready for anything. Hell, we stay ready. And it is that layer of hyper vigilance that makes us different but serves us well. It helps us feel better about being in a crowded room. Driving in the thick of traffic. Hearing the noise around us. Hugging our kids. Working on the fourteenth floor. That awareness is what makes us different–that readiness.
Sure, we meander throughout our days and check off the things we’ve accomplished on our to-do, today, or honey-do lists. There’s only slight satisfaction having crossed something off that will invariably make it back onto the list, like laundry. Yet, somewhere in between our to-do list and our we-got-it-done lists, we stand. It is how we manage. The feeling that anything can happen at any time, makes us feel like we’re still protecting, still defending—and we are.
We are a special breed of people that are ready and willing to put our lives on the line again in a split second because we never know when they’ll need us.
When they do, we are ready.
And I, for one, am thankful.
I am invisible. I am a veteran. I am a veteran whether I return from war abroad, or from service domestically. I have voluntarily served our country and protected and defended our nation. And most of you never knew I was there. If I wear my cap, my shirt, or my jacket, you might see me and thank me for my service, to which I might say ‘thank you’, or ‘it was my honor’.
I might just nod or smile and walk away with a limp, with a cane, with mental anguish, or I might not walk away at all: I might roll away. But maybe I am sitting on the cold ground watching, hearing, or feeling you walk, roll, run, drive, jog, or laugh by as you enjoy the freedoms I have almost died to provide.
You might know me to have served and you might not. I don’t always look like I served. Sometimes I look like I am the one in need. I might be the one who needs your service, your protection now. I may be evicted from my home soon, I may have lost my home and family, I may be homeless, but I am still a veteran.
I may be a thriving businessperson, or a person that smiled as we passed each other by. I may be a woman with children, or the driver you’re mad at. I am still a veteran.
My military service is something that I cherish even though the memories have started to fade away. I still remember, though. I still remember taking the oath. I still remember the day I left for service. I still remember why I served. I still remember and feel the pride of enlistment and service.
I am here. I am human. I am worth your time and attention. I deserve to be respected, not because I am a veteran, but because I am a human being worthy of the same everyday things that you may take for granted. I do not ask for much and I may not ever ask for anything. Yet, I am asking something of you today. Not for me, but for us: Acknowledge us. Make eye contact with us. Let us know that we are actually not invisible.
U. S. Navy Veteran