Veterans Day recognizes those who have sacrificed careers, precious time with loved ones, and even their lives to answer our country’s call to service.
Veterans Day is more than great shopping deals, a day off, and parades — it’s an opportunity for a whole nation to say a heartfelt “Thank you” to veterans from all military branches.
“For over 10 years, we have fought with volunteers — and they are magnificent.”
President-Elect Donald Trump has promised a commitment to better the lives of the nation’s veterans — so there is truly reason for optimism in 2016 as we honor those who serve.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman of Mascoutah, Illinois, proves that the will to serve is today stronger than it’s ever been among the nation’s military members.
“This is the first time since the American Revolution that we have fought with a 100-percent volunteer force,” he told LifeZette. “For every other war we’ve had citizens who enlisted before a war and got ‘stuck’ with that war,” he said. “Those individuals were all gone in the first four years of this war [on terrorism]. For longer wars, we always had the draft, so they were not volunteer soldiers. For over 10 years, we have fought with volunteers — and they are simply magnificent.”
Retired Army Col. Jim Lake of Athol, Massachusetts, will spend Veterans Day with his young grandson.
"The veteran represents a culture unique in the United States," he said. "It is a representation of service and sacrifice to the country. Whether it has been service for a short term or long-term, the price has been paid. Many have given their lives," he added. "Their names are written on headstones and memorials throughout the great communities of our land. Others carry the emotional and physical wounds for the rest of their lives."
Lake offered more thoughts about reflection. "A nation should stop and reflect upon these individuals. As a Vietnam veteran, I remember returning from war in 1970, walking down the street in uniform, visiting the university I graduated from, and having a student come up and spit on me. 'Why?' I wondered. I was simply doing what the political leadership wanted me to do."
Lake is excited to share his veteran status with his grandson in Texas on this important national holiday.
"It's a thrill that my wife and I will journey to Texas — my nine-year-old grandson wants his grandfather to be part of a veterans recognition ceremony at his school on Friday morning," Lake told LifeZette just before the big day. "There will be a breakfast for the veterans and then their names will be read at a ceremony. I cannot tell you what this means to me. I am being recognized by my grandson, who will stand with me in his Boy Scout uniform."
His wife, Nancy Lake, shared the sacrifices of military families — who should also be remembered on Veterans Day.
"Military service is definitely a family affair," she said. "Sacrifices are made as our loved one is deployed to war zones, temporary duty, and field duties. Separations bring many tears, but much joy in sweet reunions and 'second honeymoons,'" she added.
"My husband [Jim] met his newborn daughter for the first time on R-and-R in Hawaii for a short break from war," she recalled. "Our son was born in a military hospital in Germany and a friend drove me home — my husband was then in the midst of a big unit inspection."
"All he wants to do is get in the fight and take it to the bad guys," said the father of a service member currently on his ninth combat tour.
Nancy Lake remembers the special brand of anxiety that comes with a being in a service member's family.
"Those were the days of sending Polaroid pictures, snail mails, and urgent notifications via the Red Cross," she said. "Anxieties increased as the news media became embedded in the war zones. I turned off Walter Cronkite and the evening news to preserve my emotional well-being."
Still, there were many positives to living the military life.
"Family members were supportive and suffered private pain as they appeared outwardly strong to encourage one another," she explained. "Moving 20 times in 26 years of service helped our family appreciate other cultures and develop a larger worldview."
She added, "Sacrifices made are far outweighed by the sense of deep appreciation we have for America and the humble privilege we had to serve, ensuring that freedoms remain. We have been blessed."
Lt. Col. Grossman will be thinking of his son, Master Sgt. Eric Grossman, on Veterans Day.
"He is USAF Spec. Ops, currently on his ninth combat tour," he said. "Three Bronze Stars, nine combat tours — and all he wants to do is get in the fight and take it to the bad guys."