Happily, most folks love their Veterans and that’s as it should be.
But Veteran’s Day is kinda like Mother’s Day – one day a year Mothers get special treatment even though Mothers are Mothers every day, yeah? (I think it’s appropriate to capitalize “Mother” since they’re such extraordinary people.)
Same goes for Veterans. Veterans and Mothers get all this glory for one day a year and then they have to go back to the normal issues of life.
To help you appreciate the Veterans in your life (and you have more Veterans in your life than you may realize – it might be it the mailman, the lady who helped you buy your home, your Doctor, or accountant) I thought I’d propose the following project for you. What follows is a list of exercises that simulate what it’s like to be in the military.
Sadly – or perhaps happily – there is no way to simulate what your favorite combat Veteran has gone through. Those Vets are in a class by themselves – and there’s only one way to join that class.
So for today, we’ll have no guns, no explosions, no combat, just a snippet of what virtually everyone in the military goes through whether they are front-line or desk-bound. I want to give you a chance to live through a taste – just a small taste – of what it’s like to be in the military.
My suggestion is that you pick one of the following ideas and carry it out. Just one, but be mindful that all of the others belong to the daily life of the military as well. Please – pick just one of these, do it, then go tell your favorite Veteran that you’ve just gotten in a small way a sample of what they’ve gone through.
OK? What I’m going to do is explain a bit of the military life, then challenge you to live through what your Veteran lived through. For the sake of your Veterans try just one of these Challenges! Here goes:
REALITY -You never get enough, it never comes on time, it’s a bittersweet reminder of home.
CHALLENGE – Next time you want to read your email or texts, wait one hour. Same with phone calls. Then imagine what it’s like to wait a week.
REALITY – Often monotonous, sometimes not cooked or overcooked, sometimes late, sometimes (as on ships and subs) eaten in rooms without windows, or in the dark, or not at all.
CHALLENGE – Eat the same thing you did yesterday, or delay your lunch for two hours, or cook your dinner and let it get cold. Try having a cold can of soup for dinner.
REALITY – Sometimes you don’t get any. Sometimes interrupted in the most unpleasant ways. Sometimes in unpleasant conditions and places. Sometimes in a room or shipboard sleeping bay with 50 other guys (with creaky bunk beds). Sometimes with troubled dreams. Sometimes too wacked-out to fall asleep.
CHALLENGE – Go to bed a few hours late. Get up a few hours early. Tell someone to call you at 2:30am just to bug you. Worse, tell someone to yell at you to wake you up.
REALITY – Standing all day. Sitting all day. Packed in tightly in a small container wearing helmets, pointy gear, or weapons, or seated in a chilly container at 30,000 feet, or a warm sweaty one 500 feet under the ocean surface.
CHALLENGE – Stand at your desk for an hour, or sit with a pile of bricks on your lap, or drive to work with the car heater off and the windows down. Go for a walk in the cold without a jacket – or wear a sweater and two jackets. Ride in the most crowded BART car for three stops past your normal stop.
REALITY – same uniform every day – not just the same style, but the very same as you wore yesterday. And the day before, and the day before. Who needs soap?
CHALLENGE (and this could get kinda raw, I’ll bet nobody does this one!). Wear the same clothes three days in a row – without taking a shower. Frankly, I’m not gonna do this – I sort of hope you don’t either – but you get the idea.
REALITY – Sometimes dangerous, sometimes demanding, often monotonous, frequently unfulfilling (other than the truly gratifying fact that you are contributing to an important work).
CHALLENGE (and you knew we’d work an exercise into this thing somehow) – Make it a goal to do 50 pushups today by the time the sun goes down. If you can’t do a pushup on the floor, lean against the wall or your kitchen counter and at least push against it 50 times. At least do something hard, boring and repetitious to get a feel for a soldier’s day.
REALITY – Military pay is hardly generous. Worse yet, you sometimes feel like the average citizen is hardly grateful for what you do. You wonder how you’ll make a living when and if you get out.
CHALLENGE – This will be easy. Take a $10.00 bill, put it in an envelope, and send to a Veteran (or active military) but don’t put your name or a return address on it. You’ll know they’ll enjoy it, they’ll not know who did it, and naturally they won’t thank you for it since they won’t know who sent it. You’ll know what it’s like to give without getting much in return.
If you don’t know any Veterans then send it to the Wounded Warriors Project:
8. The Waiting Family.
I tried to come up with a simulation for this one, but nothing can mimic the feeling of separation and loneliness that military families endure. The waiting, the fears, the anxiety cannot be replicated. Worse, the soldier on active duty knows his or her family is on edge, and he or she bears that as well. These dear people are also Veterans and deserve our thanks.
You get the idea.
If you’ve been in the military you could add a thousand things to the list. The ordinary things of life that civilians take for granted become the extraordinary things of the military life.
If you haven’t been in the military then why not send this Newsletter to your favorite Veteran and tell them, “Thank you. I appreciate you more than ever!”
A final word. If someone ever told me, “Well, hey, they volunteered for it. Too bad for them.” Or, in an earlier era, “They got drafted. Tough luck.” My answer to that would be, “Yeah, and you know what? In spite of the hardships, the challenges, and worst of all the occasionally piercing loneliness, many would do it again because the cause is worth it. And they’d do it again in spite of your stinking ungratefulness.” And then I’d turn and leave.
But that would not be most people, and I trust that is none of you. A grateful nation loves its Veterans. Go find one and give thanks.
Jesus said, “Greater love no man has than this – that he would lay down his life for his friends.”
Thanks, Veterans. God bless you, your loved ones, and the country you served!
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