Growing up in Canada, November 11th marked Remembrance Day for us. As a kid, I always thought of it as a day where we'd wear poppies, read Flander's Field and we'd be quiet at 11 am. I understand the significance of it, but didn't really get it. As time went on, I began to understand and appreciate the armed forces and what they represented, but it always seemed like a distant idea to me. One that was far away and that I couldn't relate to. Then I grew up (a little) and moved to the US where November 11 has a different meaning (considering that the US also has Memorial Day). College is the first time I remember gaining more exposure to people who served or would serve or had a direct relation to someone who had served (a sibling, a parent, a friend). My empathy grew but it still felt foreign to me. Even though quite a few of my classes were in the ROTC building, I still lived in a bit of a bubble.
Then right before I moved to Oregon, my sister's college roommate got married to a Navy Man. As my sister was across the world in India, I represented the Patel sisters (hmm, I feel like deja vu) at her friends' weddings and I made the trip to LA to be part of the festivities. Seeing the Navy traditions that were fused into the wedding, I got a sense of the pride and tradition that service members have. Joining a branch of the military isn't just something you do for now, it's something that carries over into other parts of your life and it stays with you, for life.
Then I moved to Oregon and I got even closer to it. I'd hear stories about the kids of colleagues who were serving. Or the stories around the hallways from someone who was a 'military brat' or had family members in the service. I made friends who had a military background--and I started to wrap my head around it.
Then I saw my first homecoming video collage and I got it. The reaction from family members, pets, even the general public, to see a homecoming reunion between someone in the service and their loved ones... I'm not going to lie, I cried, alone, in my cube, as I watched it. And I finally got it. After that, it seemed like I came across more people and more stories everywhere that I went and I truly understood and saw the impact of all around us.
I feel for the parents who resisted the urge to grab their child and protect them from the world and instead hugged them goodbye as they went to protect our freedom, not knowing if it would be the last hug they had. I feel for the children whose memory or knowledge of a parent was what they saw in a photo or heard through stories, and if they were lucky, could see through an online call. I feel for the girlfriends/boyfriends/husbands/wives who not only have to work through the challenges that come with a long distance relationship but with the fear that the distance may grow even further without notice. I feel for the friends, for the families, for the pets, for the people, that have to say goodbye or see you soon, without knowing when the soon will be. Or even worse, the ones that don't get a chance to say hello again.
To the many men and women who are serving and to those who have served, thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice, for your service and for the freedom and protection you have given me.
My friend, Beau, shared this today and I couldn't say it better myself, so instead, I'll give him credit and share his words:
"As I prepare for bed tonight, I'm thankful for the many men and women who allow me the security and comfort that tomorrow will come quietly. Today and everyday, I'm thankful for those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. As you bravely defend our nation, may we provide you with the love and affection to battle those demons you bring off the battlefield, today and everyday."