Respect for those who served in the military starts at home
By Tom Fjerstad
The emotions and memories that rise to the surface each Veterans Day among those who served are without question as varied and unique as their individual service. While many veterans may have served in similar situations, performing similar duties, no two stories are exactly alike.
With that in mind, the day designated to honor the service of these men and women will serve different purposes and mean different things to each of us and to our family members.
Your memories may be fond ones of camaraderie and teamwork with fellow servicemembers with whom you developed an unbreakable bond. You may also have memories that are far from pleasant and challenge you each and every day.
What I hope is that you know in your heart that the overwhelming majority of Americans truly respect and appreciate your service and the sacrifices you made.
And I hope you can harbor a level of pride in what you did for your country and appreciate some of the sincere expressions of gratitude displayed by others.
Some of my fondest memories of past Veterans Days are the cards my sons made for me each year to wish me a happy Veterans Day and to thank me for my service.
However, there was a bigger value in the creation of these cards that I hadn’t realized until recently.
When their mother had them sit down and craft these cards each year, it was more than just a thank you to Dad. They were developing respect and appreciation for all who served — appreciation and respect they both maintain to this day.
For many years, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) conducted a National Veterans Day Poster & Poem contest. Parents and teachers from across the country would have their children or students create posters and write poems displaying their patriotism and appreciation for veterans.
Some of these children had a direct family connection to veterans, while others did not. But what they all came away with were heightened awareness and understanding of the sacrifices and service of these men and women.
The contest winners were always invited to PVA’s national office in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day for a formal awards presentation.
I attended many of these events and always returned home with the feeling that it made a real difference in the lives of not only the winner, but in all who had participated.
When I observe current events in this country, it gives me reason for great concern.
I believe it calls into question whether there’s really a diminished respect for those who step up to serve this country in the military, as well as those in law enforcement and first responders.
Maybe it’s simply a case of the squeaky wheel getting all the attention that inundates us from every angle.
I hope it’s the latter and want to believe the vast majority of parents in this country continue to instill in their children the values of respect and appreciation for those who have served and those who continue to serve.
Thank you for your service, and have a happy Veterans Day.