I grew up knowing that both my grandfathers were veterans who fought in WWII. Even as a kid, and then as a teenager, I was proud of my grandfathers for what they did to serve our country. I liked seeing their old photos. I enjoyed hearing that they wrote love letters to my grandmothers back in the States. And I vividly remember taking in my grandfather’s military tattoo while sitting on his lap.
However, I am sad to say I never actually thanked my grandfathers for their service before they passed away. I really have no excuse, other than I was an incredibly shy child, and, honestly, I don’t think I ever heard anyone else thank them.
Now, as an adult and a parent, I always thank veterans when I see them. Not just on Veterans Day, but every day. We all notice those VFW hats or an active duty soldier in uniform. We can all take five seconds out of our day to simply say, “Thank you for serving our country.” If I have the time (and if the kids are behaving), I ask a few simple questions about their time in our military. I’ll ask what branch of the military they served in or what their duty was. I may ask where they were stationed throughout their career. Seriously, these men and women put their lives in danger and spend precious time away from their own families. The least I can do is look them in the eye, shake their hand, and give them the most sincere thank you.
My hope is that my children see me model this and it becomes something they copy and do themselves. My kids are 8, 5, and 2, so too young to really understand what it means that their “Pop” served in Vietnam. However, I do expect them to thank my father-in-law. Someday they will know and understand the sacrifices he made. And they can be just as proud of him as I am, and just as proud of him as I was of my grandfathers.
So please, today and every day, thank our veterans and active-duty military members. I know they appreciate it, and I know they do not get thanked or acknowledged enough.