DEAR READERS: Happy Veterans Day! To all of you who have served in the United States military, we thank you for your service to our country.
Most Americans have someone in their family who has served in the military. For many, it is a badge of honor to do so. Now is the time to focus on family members and loved ones who have served and pause to acknowledge them.
I was recently reminded of the deep sentiment that can come from serving in this way. My family and I spent the two summers of COVID-19 living in the back house of friends who reside in a historically African American beach community in the Hamptons in New York. There’s tremendous legacy there, including our host, Mr. Bill Pickens, known as the unofficial mayor of Sag Harbor Hills. Uncle Bill, as all fondly call him, served in the military.
Indeed, he spent time in Japan, long enough to become fluent in the language and later help to create a foundation to support American-Japanese relations. Uncle Bill proudly put on his fatigue-green military jumpsuit one Sunday afternoon and regaled us with stories of time gone by. He was a proud member of the U.S. military and of his community. He savored each moment. We lost Uncle Bill Sept. 27, on his 85th birthday.
I remember him now as we recall all of our veterans. It is a sacrifice to serve in this way, to put yourself in harm’s way to protect our country. It also can be incredibly rewarding. Through this service, you learn what honor means. You learn how to put your country first. You learn how to embrace the ideals upon which this country was founded.
At Uncle Bill’s funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people who all took care to wear masks and stay safe, taps was performed. It took me back to my own father’s funeral some 20 years ago. My dad served in the Army during World War II, when he was a lieutenant. At interment, we heard taps and a 21-gun salute, all part of the pageantry of a veteran’s funeral and a powerful way of sending off a soul.
On Veteran’s Day 2021, we celebrate all the brave Americans who have offered their lives in service — both those who are among us and those who have passed. We give thanks for your commitment to our country. While imperfect, the United States holds the ideal that we all deserve to be protected and free. As we contemplate what freedom looks like today, let us think of those who have fought for it and offer our gratitude. Let’s also pay attention to the veterans who are in need. The trauma that some veterans experience while in service can be harrowing. We must not forget them after they come home. For more information on how to support veterans who are in need, go to mentalhealth.va.gov.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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