Veterans Day can mean many different things to many different people
To the general public, it may mean a time to say thank you to those who served and to express appreciation for the liberties they enjoy because of that service. To veterans, this special day inevitably conjures memories of their military service and of those with whom they served.
I’ve heard it often said that the single biggest thing veterans miss in their transition from military to civilian life is the camaraderie. The camaraderie and friendships developed during military service create memories and relationships that often last a lifetime.
Most veterans service organizations play a huge part in perpetuating this feeling of belonging long after our time wearing the uniform officially ends. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is no different in that respect, but our members find much more in common with each other than just their military service.
The severity of the disabilities shared among our membership creates a unifying sense of empathy and understanding and a great appreciation of the difficulties, and victories, no matter how large or small, that we all encounter on an almost daily basis. This mutual support is found through participation in events sponsored by our chapters and during inpatient and outpatient visits at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spinal-cord injury (SCI) centers across the country.
Shortly after I incurred my SCI, I found myself at the VA SCI center in Milwaukee in 1990. I lived in the Minneapolis area, but at that time, there was neither a PVA chapter nor a VA SCI center in Minnesota. Having initially been sent by the Navy to a private facility in Minneapolis for my acute rehab, I never realized what I had been missing out on until I had my first annual exam at the center in Wisconsin.
During that visit, I was immediately approached and recruited into PVA membership by the PVA Wisconsin Chapter. The sense of belonging that came with being surrounded by fellow veterans with similar injuries was more than reassuring. I became part of a large family that day — a family of veterans who truly have each other’s backs and a part of the PVA family that will stop at nothing in their pursuit of enhancing our mutual well-being.
I returned to Minnesota after that visit and joined a group of veterans who had their sights set on forming a PVA chapter and eventually establishing a new SCI center at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.
A close friend of mine, one of the members of that original group in Minnesota, was recently admitted into hospice at this center. And I know he’s surrounded by family — not only his traditional family but his extended PVA family that has been there for him, just as he has been there for them all these years.
My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and son, both of whom are active members of this PVA family.
This Veterans Day, I hope you find yourself surrounded by family, both your traditional one and the unequaled support and camaraderie of your PVA family.
Happy Veterans Day!