I am asking you for a favor. It’s actually a pretty simple one and it will be more appreciated than you may realize:

Reach out to a veteran today and say a heartfelt “thank you.”  

Give them a hug, a high-five or a fist bump. If you can’t thank them in person, call them, Facetime them, send them an email, a letter or even a text. Whatever you want, just make sure you take the time to recognize their service and say thank you.

If you are so moved, take it to the next level and ask yourself, “How can you bring joy to a veteran today?” Some veterans need more support than others, especially those who are permanently disabled, which includes those suffering from PTSD as well as physical injuries.  Donate to a veteran’s organization, volunteer at a VA home or hospital, help an out of work veteran with a job, or just be there to talk to a veteran in need. 

Veterans day is officially Saturday, Nov. 11, but will be observed on Friday, Nov. 10. There will be parades and ceremonies throughout the country, and deservedly so. This Friday, our Sun City Softball Club, which plays its games at Veterans Memorial Field, will be hosting games to honor our community veterans and 700 hot dogs will be given away to the crowd compliments of local sponsor Citadel Storage. Yes, there will be that many and more in attendance.

I never served in the military, and it is one of my few regrets in life. I believe that military service is among the highest callings for citizens of our great nation. It’s especially true now in the social media-driven world where our way of life is constantly under attack from outside, and sadly, from within, as well.  

My father (Joe Battista, Sr.) and my uncle (Joe Carolis) were in the Army and Navy, respectively, in the Korean War, while my Uncle Tullio and my father-in-law, Francis “Smitty” Smith, both fought in World War II. My grandfather Costanzo Carolis fought for the U.S. Army in WWI in France, where he received a Purple Heart for injuries suffered from an explosion in battle. I have only recently discovered some of the details of their service and wish I had been more inquisitive so I could have at least attempted to draw some stories from them.

So many veterans will not speak about their experiences because of the terrible memories that it may conjure up — whether they are doing it out of respect to spare their loved ones and friends the harsh details of their experiences, or out of their own fear because they simply want to forget. Regardless, it’s not ours to judge. I would hope that some veterans would find it cathartic to be vulnerable enough to talk about their experiences. It could make a difference in someone else’s life, and it may just help them to bring closure one way or another. 

It’s especially important to hear from the rapidly diminishing number of World War II veterans so that their stories are told and passed along. Regardless of your personal feelings toward war, the necessity of having a military is real and we all need to thank those who serve.

I would encourage you to read  “Why veterans struggle to share their stories with their kids”, a Nov. 10, 2020 report produced by Penn State graduate Kait Hanson for the “Today” show. Hanson interviews Vietnam veteran Bill George, a now 74-year-old U.S. Air Force and Army veteran. George said that he (and many of his combat veteran friends) have blocked out specific memories.

“I was a PTSD denier. My wife and my kids never knew what I did for many years,” George said of his years in combat. “I kind of clammed into a shell. I was in my late 40s or early 50s before I started to talk to with guys I went to war with. The reason why was because in my memories, I was like a dictator. I was afraid to see how these guys would react (to me) — that’s why I never made contact. When I went, it was the opposite. They said things like, ‘You saved my life.’”

I believe that most veterans detest the idea of war. I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t think some of the wars and battles that they were asked to fight in, or be on guard for, didn’t mesh 100% with their personal beliefs. Yet they still answered the call. 

Today, a lot of kids, and adults, play the best-selling video game series “Call of Duty.” They get to simulate what it would be like to be in an actual battle depending on what version of the game they are playing. I wonder how many of today’s young people would answer an actual call of duty if their lives were on the line defending our way of life. I have watched enough people play the game over the years including my own kids and their friends and they are addicted to the sense of pressure and fight or flight realism of the game. The pressure appears real to them yet I suspect they don’t really understand what actual combat would feel like.

I will never forget my old boss Vance McCullough (a retired Army Ranger captain) asking me if I was feeling pressure before a national tournament game when I was coaching Penn State’s hockey team. I anxiously answered, “Yes sir!” He chuckled and said, “JoeBa, you have nothing to be nervous about. If you want to know what real pressure is, it’s when you’re running into the jungle with Viet Cong shooting real bullets at you. That’s pressure.” 

Veterans are an important part of the community in Sun City, South Carolina. Each fall, neighborhoods decorate their signs to honor veterans and softball games are played to celebrate Veterans Day. 

Perhaps those of you who are totally against war can reserve your criticism for the politicians who seem to get us into certain situations. It’s not the fault of our soldiers, sailors, marines, pilots, coast guard and all those who support our military. They are simply answering a call and they deserve our respect, support and profound thanks. 

So be intentional and deliberate this Veterans Day and reach out to those who deserve our thanks for their service and sacrifices. 

We continue to be the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.

The post Thank a Veteran Today appeared first on StateCollege.com.

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