Homegrown heroes — honor Veterans everyday

Published 5:37 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It is another 11th month, another 11th day, another 11th hour and another special day to honor our Veterans, the brave heroes who serve in our military forces. If a day had a color, this would be the red, white and blue day. Our patriotism should be evident. Fly a flag!

As a woman, I am always excited at the sight of a person in uniform. I feel an instant rush of pride and my impression of the person is always a step higher than anyone else. Isn’t that the way it should be? To this day, no one has proved me wrong — at least while I was looking. You enlist in the armed forces then it’s like signing up for Hero Duty. Move over Marvel, the real superman is wearing camo.

Recently, I got all giggly while meeting a Lieutenant General Commander of the Air Force Reserve, a high ranking man in charge of 67,000 soldiers. Did I gush? Yes. Did I say openly that I love a man in uniform? Yes. Lt. General Charles Stenner took my girlish charm well as did Santa Claus standing next to him who wanted to point out he was in uniform too.

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Love my military guys! Love the girls too, but they don’t make me blush. The event was a Christmas concert for the troops at the Grand Ole Opry where the military band and strings performed along with Amy Grant and Take 6. I felt the spirit of Christmas and Patriotism all in one lump sum. Now that is good feeling.

Today is Veteran’s Day, the day to remember the hard working men and women who serve our country. This year, we do it with sad hearts.

Not only do we fight a battle across the ocean, but one at home. Our own have turned against us this past week in the Fort Hood shootings. This is not a homegrown hero, but a homegrown terrorist. Yes. I said terrorist when no one else wants to venture down that politically incorrect road, or they do so carefully. It is unimaginable, that someone born in this great country, with all the privileges, with all the freedom would take the precious gift of being an American citizen and trash it so tragically. The label traitor is upon him, the lowest of the low.

How can you train soldiers for betrayal? Friendly fire is one thing, it’s an accident, but cold blooded murder of your fellow soldiers is beyond comprehension. It only adds to the major stress our soldiers have to endure.

I can’t even imagine the mental stress of being a soldier in today’s military forces. I promise you that I don’t have the hero stuff in me — to leave your family, the comfort of your community, your restaurants. Could I leave my favorite seafood dish?

The sacrifice of financial stress our National Guardsmen suffer when they have to leave their regular jobs abruptly for months at a time. It’s amazing we have such brave men and women who serve.

If the military force was made up of people like me, we would be in trouble. Probably speaking Chinese.

As the president continues to ponder his path in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the soldier on the street continues following orders, not knowing if what he is doing today will be nullified by the top dogs in office. This has to be a blow to morale. They need to know what they are fighting for is worth fighting for, worth the anxiety and stress of never knowing where the enemy may attack next.

Our soldiers have to fight the pull and tug of politics along with the face to face combat.

As they come home, these Veterans have another tough fight ahead of many of them and that is the epidemic of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There is a compelling book written about this issue telling revealing stories of the struggles some of these well adorn heroes as they return home, different, traumatized and sometimes not even aware of the demon within them. My article written in the Picayune Item — “The Hidden War: American Soldiers vs TBI” was quoted in the introduction to this book which I recommend to all of you — ”Hidden Battles on Unseen Fronts” by Patricia Driscoll and Celia Straus.

My quote sums it up. “Every war has its signature wound. In World War I it was poison gas-damaged lungs. In World War II it was retaliation that caused cancer. In Vietnam it was Agent Orange that caused neurological damage and skin disorders, and for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts it is TBI.”

So many battles, so many unseen fronts for the American Soldier, the Veteran who comes home doesn’t leave the hardships behind, doesn’t leave the trauma, the nightmares, but faces the life long sacrifice of his or her service.

Now, what do we do as a community, as someone who enjoys the fruit of the soldiers sacrifice? Do we honor? Pay attention? Say thank you?

I’ve written it before, and I will continue to encourage those who when they see a soldier, a senior adult wearing a Veteran’s cap stating their particular branch of service, to please, at the very least acknowledge that person’s sacrifice. Say a simple thank you.

We can all do more. We should do more. After the twin towers were hit, we were exploding with patriotism, showing our colors, many were enlisting to take on the gauntlet that had been thrown down. Let us not wait until the next terrorist attack to show our colors.

Last week, our troops were dealt a low blow. Our armed forces need support, they need appreciation, and at least acknowledgment of their heroic act.

Thankfully, it doesn’t even occur to me to act any other way. So, I may giggle when a general pays attention to me, I may flirt with an 80 year old Veteran in the grocery store as I share my appreciation for his service, and I may stand along the roadside when a young kid returns in a box to be laid to rest. I encourage you to do your part, it doesn’t require that much of an inconvenience.

Of course, many of you who get the day off from school or work will go shopping. George Bush did say it was a patriotic thing to do in these tough economic times, so while you are serving your country at the local mall, stop first at a parade, or shake hands with someone serving his country, or even, say a prayer. Just don’t do nothing! Donate a dollar or $11 to support Veteran’s causes. Donate blood.

Freedom isn’t free. Every American soldier is a hero.

God bless America.

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at her website: myhometowncolumn.com or become a fan of My Hometown Column on Face Book.