Veterans Day, which is November 11th was made a legal holiday back on June 1, 1954. The day is dedicated to support the cause of world peace. This day was originally known as “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day was primarily a day set for honoring veterans from World War I. When 1954 came around, World War II broke out, with the Korean War to follow. These wars caused urgency for the use of veteran’s service organizations. Because of this urgency, officials want to change the word “Armistice” to “Veteran.” Therefore, from then on, November 11th will be a day to acknowledge all Veterans of the United States of America.
Today, Veteran’s day is still a day that we stop to support all of our Veterans. However, there seems to be a difference in what each generation of veterans may come home too. When the Vietnam War happened, many Vets who were injured physically or mentally came home to very little emotional or psychological help. When men and women experience what war brings, it changes them and forces their minds into a different state. Because of the little amount of mental support that these men and women were faced with when they returned home, it forced many of them to shut down, and often live their life in fear every day. The biggest problem was that no one knew what to expect from the Veterans when they returned. No one knew what they had really seen, encountered, or what their mental state would be. Sadly, many Vietnam vets were told to keep what they saw, a secret and to not share their stories with civilians. Their purpose for this was to protect the civilian’s minds and thoughts from the happenings of this horrible war.
Today with the Iraqi War and the Afghanistan War, our men and women are coming home to full support. There are many different organizations that help Veterans to get back on their feet by assisting in pushing to get a college education, helping with housing funds, and job placements. On top of the assisting programs, Veterans are told to speak about what they saw, and to share their stories. With more and more veterans sharing their stories, there are less people in the dark, and when civilians hear the word war, there is a whole new meaning, especially if you’ve heard a story from a veteran.
My husband, Josh Ryan is Marine and an Iraqi War combat veteran who was deployed at the end of 2002, at 20 years old. He was pulled from his family around the holidays, and was vaguely briefed on what to expect over the next period of time. He then crossed seas by a ship, which took a month, and when they arrived on the shores of Iraq, they still weren’t sure what they were up against. On March 22nd, 2003, they pushed forward to cross through parts of Iraq in order to free the Iraqi civilians, and to stop Saddam’s men. Because, he and his fellow Marines were the first to enter this territory, the unknown was scary and hard to plan for.
On March 23, my husband and his unit were engaged by the enemy in the city of Nazaria. This battle turned out to be the deadliest of all of the battles fought up until that point in the war of Iraqi Freedom. The mission on hand was to secure two bridges on the eastern side of Nazaria, which meant they had to cross the city which was full of combatant Iraqis. As they entered the city, the Iraqi’s began firing their weapons, which lead to a heavy firefight between themselves and our Marines. My husband’s unit was the 1st Battalion 2nd Marines, they were told to push through the city no matter what, in order to secure these bridges. Therefore, they had to fight their way through in order to complete orders. While they were pushing through, RPG’s, grenades, and mortars began to attack from every angle which sadly was the cause of 18 causalities and 14 wounded and medevac’d Marines. After almost an entire day’s worth of combat, my husband’s unit was able to finally secure the bridges after immobilizing most of the city and all of the Iraqi combatants.
My husband reminds me on a daily basis that he cherishes his life, and knows that he is beyond lucky to be one of the few survivors from that deadly battle. He suffers with memories and flashbacks that will probably never go away. He remembers and misses his “brothers” who were next to him in the war, and who he had to watch die. The awful scenes you watch in the fictional war movies became his unfortunate, but real life.
Thankfully, my husband has opened up to me, and shared all of his stories. I constantly ask questions because I want to know everything, so I can understand his pain and so he doesn’t have to be alone with his awful memories.
Sadly, there are many US citizens who have no idea as to what our men and women are going through across seas. These Men and women are literally giving their lives to protect us and our country and they ask for nothing in return. Hopefully, while our new veterans begin and continue to share their stories, more people will have an understanding of what we as civilians are being protected from.
While, Veterans Day is only day a year, it’s important to remember every day that there are so many veterans who have protected and served or sadly given their lives to our country. If you know a veteran, ask to hear their story. Many of them want to share and aren’t sure if anyone wants to listen.
The least we can do for our heroes is to be a lending ear.