I am in awe of the bravery and dedication displayed by the individuals who have ever served in our country’s armed forces. No matter what the situation, they held their heads high and kept moving forward, steadfastly protecting their military family beside them, and their biological families back home. Those of us who depend on them understand that their complete devotion does not come without personal sacrifice. I hereby pay tribute to every United States Veteran who has served our country, as well as the brave men and women who are currently in the line of fire.
My Experience with the Military
I had the honor of working with many United States Veterans, and active military men and women when I worked at USAA. (USAA is a financial services company that offers banking and insurance primarily to the military.) During my two year employment there, before my eventual retirement from banking, I interacted with thousands of military men and women. I had been in banking for twenty five years prior to USAA and my experience dealing with USAA military members was vastly different than my experience in dealing with the general public. I can count on one hand the military members who were rude or demanding in their interactions with me. Contrast that to difficult Bank of America customers who probably numbered in the thousands!
Not counting those very few negative experiences, in every conversation I held with all levels of the military from an Army private to a General, Ensign to Admiral that military man or woman was polite and patient. I always thanked them for their service and usually I was thanked in return. They were never assuming, boastful, or condescending. I found every one of them quick witted, intelligent and articulate. I listened to their financial problems, and sometimes stories about their physical wounds that would forever affect their lives. Sometimes they called right before deployment to the Middle East, needing to get their financial house in order. I always did everything I could to help them with their needs, but if I couldn’t, they politely thanked me anyway. I laughed and cried on a daily basis while I worked there; and I always prayed that they wouldn’t come home covered by a U.S. Flag.
I spoke to military wives on a regular basis too. Some were widowed with small children and were trying to survive the heartache of losing their lover and best friend, who died so far away from them. I spoke to military wives who were trying to juggle a job, household and kids while their husbands put their lives on the line half a world away. Their strength and positive attitude in the midst of such enormous challenges was inspirational and made my personal problems seem petty.
U.S. Military under Stress
The horrendous mass shooting at Fort Hood shook the country and its military community at its core.This unprecedented tragedy on a military base is still unexplained. We all wonder, could it represent the severe stress our brave soldiers have to endure with their repeated tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan? Could it be a well planned terrorist attack from within our armed services ranks? We may never know the answer to those questions, but even before this event, military leaders were becoming increasingly concerned at the rampant number of military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases and suicides. It was determined in spring 2008 that one in five service members come home with PTSD or depression.
In his March 9, 2009 Boston Globe’s article, “The military’s post-traumatic stress dilemma”, Tyler E. Boudreau gives us an insider’s view of being in the military. He also expresses his concern for the mental health of today’s military. As a former Marine Captain, he says, “I was in Iraq in 2004. From the day we had arrived home to the day we were scheduled to return to Iraq was exactly nine months. The pressure to prepare ourselves quickly was intense”.
Boudreau tells us that the Army and Marine Corp suicide rates are climbing rapidly, and that in the months preceding his article, suicide actually exceeded the number of military Heros killed in action. He explains that many soldiers come home in between tours suffering from PTSD, but treatment is ineffective since they eventually return to combat. He talks of the balancing act the military faces in maintaining an adequate level of combat-ready troops with discharging soldiers who are suffering.internally.
The Veteran’s Brave Face
Behind most aging Veteran faces are personal, painful memories and stories of fortitude and bravery . Behind the younger, active duty faces and strong bodies in an officer’s uniform or combat fatigues, are human beings who are doing a job that is demanding, stressful beyond imagination, and unrelenting. And most of our service members have their young families back home on their minds, knowing they are depending on their return.
They miss the births of their babies, their kids’ soccer games, birthdays, and their anniversaries. They don’t have a soft spot to fall after they have watched their combat buddy die. Day after day, they get up, put on their boots and do their job; no sick days allowed. In spite of all this, many told me that they loved their job and had a good life. And remarkably, none of them expected to be called a hero. They always said in a modest voice, “I’m just doing my job.”
I have tears in my eyes as I write this article, because I am so grateful and beholding to these strong individuals who are “just doing” this job of protecting our country. Listen up, all you undemanding heroes; I speak for my family, friends and millions of other Americans in saying that we appreciate what you do. Please be safe, come home, and once you are back if you are hurting, do everything you can to deal with that internal storm.
(Let a military man or women know you care by adopting a U.S. Soldier at the website: Adopt a U. S. Soldier)