It comes every year. November 11th. A day to honor those who, at some point in their life, raised their right hand, and swore to put others before themselves. A day to say, “Thank you.”
The weeks leading up to November 11th are filled with stories, books, and events that highlight the efforts of this nation’s servicemembers. Friends from the past call—kicking open that box you emotionally sealed up years ago. Facebook is littered with photos of friends that you last saw carried off in a helicopter. This is the toughest post of the year to write—it’s simply overwhelming. It’s a day when, “Thank You,” never seems like enough.
About a month ago, Starbucks hosted “The Muster” at the corporate headquarters in Seattle. Military, business and non-profit leaders from around the nation met not only discuss, but commit to bridge the “civil-military divide” by empowering veterans to solve problems in their communities. When one of the most successful businessmen in American history, Howard Schultz, states that veterans are going to be the ones to fix these communities, people should listen. Throughout the day, veteran leaders presented their successful programs protecting inner city youth against violence, developing sustainable solutions for transportation, and changing government organizations that need to serve veterans in a more meaningful way. Veterans fixing problems isn’t something that’s going to happen when the wars end—it’s happening now. And it’s inspiring. To those of you that took off the uniform and continue to serve, Thank You.
Shortly after the Starbucks event, Kellogg’s invited Combat Flip Flops out to Battle Creek, Michigan. To be honest, we were somewhat shocked too. But shortly after arriving in Michigan, you could not only see, but feel the dedication to our nation’s servicemembers. Hosted by gracious Kellogg’s employees, Bobbie and Drew, we learned that Kellogg’s has a long history of supporting the military. The founder of Kellogg’s, W. K. Kellogg, donated his manor to the government during World War 2 for convalescing veterans, he rapidly changed production lines to make the infamous “K-Ration,” and stepped up to help his nation whenever called. Today, Kellogg’s continues that service to veterans with a new-hire goal of 7% veterans. They even went as far as to build an MOS converter to help veterans translate a DD-214 to employable skills. And at every corner, we met more veterans at Kelloggs. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and even a few international veterans—validating their commitment to our nation’s servants. To businesses that follow through on their commitments to veterans, Thank You.
During that time in Michigan, we learned of a fantastic organization; Honor Flight. Honor Flight is a non-profit that organizes trips for veterans to see their memorial in D.C. To the non-veterans reading this, a memorial is a physical structure that provides closure to many. In many cases, veterans hold in memories, and the emotions that come with them, for decades. Knowing the the memory of their friends will not be lost allows many to let go of that burden. The World War II memorial wasn’t dedicated and opened until 2004—49 years after the end of the war. Mathematically, the youngest veteran for that memorial would be 66 years old. But the majority of veterans are much, much older. Men that fought historic naval battles, stormed beaches, flew missions through deafening anti-aircraft fire, and ended a genocide. Men and women that deserve to see their memorial and pay respects to those that fell beside them. To the people providing closure to those brave men and women, Thank You.
If you’ve been in the military circle since 2001, you more than likely know a person that faltered under the pressure of service. The helplessness. The daily mental replay. The loss. The popular number is 22 veterans per day commit suicide. Older veterans. Younger veterans. Current service members. 22. Roughly a Sandy Hook shooting. Every. Day. Yet as a nation, we are not addressing the topic. As Veteran’s, we’ve learned that it’s up to us—no one else is coming. We have to be there for one another. Today marks the 22nd straight day of a veteran effort to provide mental and physical relief from the pain; the #22aDayChallenge. Founded by an Air Force Veteran that found his peace through yoga, he started a national effort to help others. To those that realize nobody is coming for us and choose to do something about it, Thank You.
It’s easy to forget those that have yet to serve. Those that are too young to legally dedicate themselves to serving others. But they’re out there. They always have been. Always will be. Young men and women that yearn for the community and mission that the service provides. To those of you that will answer the call when the time comes, Thank you.
To the past, present and future,