I graduated the year of the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm I think was the name. I did not personally know anyone who was deployed though I have an uncle who served in the Navy at the time.
I was married when we invaded Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom. It was right after 9/11. I remember people talking about whether this would be our generations call to duty, like all those boys that rushed to enlist after Pear Harbor. People did enlist but not in droves. I, along with most of my high school class went off to college. I did not personally know anyone who served in that conflict.
By the time the Iraq war began in 2003, I had a newborn at home, a newborn son. His gender felt important in light of a war. Before our troops were called home, I went on to give birth to two more boys. I still did not personally know anyone deployed to the war zone.
Six years ago, Veteran's Day took on a whole new meaning. It became the day after my friend lost her daughter and began a fight for her life in a horrible, tragic car accident. So for six years, November rolls around and I am reminded of November 10th. I am reminded of sitting in the ICU waiting room with her husband. Nothing we did could comfort and yet knowing it mattered that we were there with him. He was a veteran. Now this day, November 11th, only reminds him of the day before.
This year, my kindergartner learned about Veteran's Day in school. His teacher is amazing at explaining things to little kids. She reminded Little One that he does know a veteran. Our neighbor across the street flew helicopters in Iraq. He spent six years overseas and three in Iraq. I learned this today when the boys and I took over some pumpkin muffins we made as a small way to say thank you. His first deployment to the war was six months after he married his beautiful wife. I cannot imagine the pain of separation. I cannot imagine the worry. Those first years of marriage are hard enough without being apart for months at a time with the possibility of death hanging overhead.
Veteran's Day has passed me by for so many years. I think of it as a day off, a respite in our busy schedules. Little One in all his enthusiasm about learning new things reminded me that this holiday is not about sleeping in. It's about thanking those men and women who couldn't sleep well for months and years when deployed so that I can.
I am thankful for our neighbor, for his safe return to his wife, and for both of their sacrifices.