Honoring Our Veterans!
We Are All One!
We are living during a time where we have forgotten we are all one. We all have muscles, bones, organs, tissues, blood and we come in different colored packages. We also have different ideas. We have to find ways to connect through our similar beliefs and learn through our dissimilar beliefs. We also have to challenge our fears and ask ourselves are they grounded in reality or not. We have a golden rule that I still think works and is well said by Karen Armstrong.
Karen Armstrong, a world-religions expert who emphasizes the golden rule and compassion, wins a TED award which she uses to launch the Charter for Compassion. Her acceptance speech urges: “If we don’t manage to implement the golden rule globally, so that we treat all peoples as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we’ll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation.
Honoring Our Veterans
So how can we change “It’s different, I am afraid of it/I don’t like it?” We need to find answers and maybe we can get some of those answers from our veterans. We can listen to our veteran’s stories about how they connected as they fought for and with people they had never met, people who had different ideas about living, different religious beliefs, different customs, different histories, and people who came in different packages. I would imagine war teaches lessons fast. Are we giving our veterans a place to tell their stories, speak about the lessons they learned, the connections they made, and who they are as a result of being deployed? One idea suggested is for a community to organize a gathering with its citizens non-veterans and veterans. The non-veterans listen, and the veterans tell their stories about war. These stories hopefully will include their lessons, the gifts, the horrors, the good, bad and ugly of their experiences. Remember we are there to listen and have compassion. Judgments not welcome.
There are places where people say thank you to service men and women for their service. Some of these places are public and some are private (if you see someone in uniform.) I imagine some service men/women like this and maybe some don’t. I am a results person so let me say for me I think it is important to acknowledge our service men and women as long as we also take actions that will address in real ways the concerns of all veterans. I would imagine when we elect into public office someone who has served, veterans may feel as though they have more of a voice. I think it is important for us to get involved in understanding how decisions are made about war, who are the best people to make those decisions, how do we best take care of our men and women going to war, during war, and when they come home from war. We don’t do a good job of all three of those situations now in my assessment.
Be The At Home Advocate
If your best friend goes to war and you want to support him/her, get educated about what the war is about, who are the best people to be elected who will care about your friend, see what policies (adequate mental health care etc.) are in need of changing and who cares about taking care of our service men/women by promoting good policies. We think government is out there, but it is really supposed to represent and take care of us- particularly those who are the most vulnerable which includes those at war. I can only imagine how someone who is putting his/her life on the line in another country might feel supported by knowing his/her friend was taking all the action he/she could at home to get the best equipment, and support decisions made for all service men and women to be safe.
Many of us remember the poignant clip of soldiers asking Sec Rumsfeld why they had inferior equipment that lacked adequate protection. One group refused to carry out a fuel delivery because of inferior equipment. We should be beating down the doors of our congressmen/women for our servicemen to make sure they do not feel alone.
When our servicemen/women are not getting their pay and their families have the added stress of not being able to pay their bills, we should be protesting/marching/calling and doing whatever is necessary to make things right.
Providing extra support to families of veterans: free babysitting, invitations to special events, distracting activities to have fun, being available to talk, understanding the challenges the family is facing, are easy and just require our thinking what would I like/need in that situation?
What Do I Say To You?
Years ago, I wrote an article about what to say to someone who has lost someone. So many people want to avoid people who are going through one of life’s challenges. Personally, I think it is best to say “I don’t know what to say, and I want you to know I am thinking about you, I care about you, and I am here for you” rather than saying nothing. Saying something that doesn’t require an answer is best when you don’t know what to say. Let’s go back to your best friend. He/she was deployed, you educated yourself as much as possible about where he/she was, you advocated, called and got involved in policies for veteran, and now your friend is home. What do you do and say? I think initially just being there, offering logistical help to your friend and family, inviting your friend to do anything he/she is willing to do for distraction e.g. running/golf/watch games/grab a beer etc. and just being a predictable consistent friend who cares is important. And I think it is respectful particularly since you have joined the journey of deployment as much as you could without going, to say, “I don’t want to be intrusive but when you are ready, I would really like to know about your time in Afghanistan. What was a normal day for you?” If he/she changes the subject leave it alone. You opened the door and the ball is in his/her court. My assessment is this conversation is for friends and family who put their time in and care. A piece of your life is missing for them and they care about you. They care about what is missing and how it is affecting you. This is different than gossip. This is a sincere conversation from people who care.
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