I bought my first American flag when our son Christopher was deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Iraq war. Long periods of time went by when we didn’t hear from him.
My wife, Joy, and I obsessed over the news. We were full of fear, not knowing if Chris was okay. We finally went to a therapist who gave us one piece of advice – quit watching the news. We are so grateful he made it through safe.
I’m not sure why I bought the flag when Chris was in the desert – it just seemed like the right thing to do. I’m not sure if it was a patriotic act or just a longing to feel that things were okay, or perhaps as a symbol of hope. If someone asked me “Are you patriotic?” before Chris joined the USMC, I would have said “Yes, of course.” I was raised that way – but I didn’t feel it deep down. Not like my dad, a navy veteran during the Korean War, and most veterans I know.
My dad’s response to 9/11 was visceral…not just because thousands died, but because America was attacked. He was brought up during World War II. His brother, my Uncle Lucky, was one of the few survivors when the USS Arizona sunk during the Pearl Harbor attack, when we lost 1,177 sailors and Marines.
Like many, I’ve started to thank veterans for their service. But I recently heard someone say we should thank veterans for their sacrifice. That struck home. When Chris left the relative safety of the U. S., the full extent of sacrifice our service members make hit me. We can never understand that type of sacrifice unless we’ve lived it. Our service members make the ultimate commitment. They give their lives, their health, and their time to protect us.
When the going gets too tough, you and I can quit pretty much anything we sign up for. Not service members. If college gets tough, I can walk away. If my job is too demanding or my boss is a jerk, I can walk away. It doesn’t work like that in the military. So yes, our service members make the ultimate sacrifice. Most carry their experiences with them, physically and/or mentally, for the rest of their lives. Most become incredible contributors to our society when they return too.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by veterans in an entrepreneurial mastermind. They are some of the wisest and most tenacious people I know. They feel fear and have misgivings like the rest of us – but they move forward anyway. When things don’t go well, they assess, make new plans, and start again. There is something about their military training that shines through under the pressures of entrepreneurship and leadership.
I encourage you to thank our veterans for not only for their past service and sacrifice, but also for the contributions they continue to make to our world.
And to all the veterans – Thank you for your service, Thank you for your sacrifice