Reflections on the meaning of Veterans Day by local resident and veteran Pat Samel.

At this time of year, we thank our veterans for their service to our country, but do you know why? Veterans Day is celebrated at the 11th hour, the 11th day, of the 11th month, every year because that is when the armistice was signed ending World War 1 in 1918. 102 years ago, this coming Wednesday it coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War 1. It was originally known in the United States as Armistice Day until 1954 when it was changed to Veterans Day.

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in the service of their country. It also should not be confused with Armed Forces Day, which honors those currently serving their country.

So, what is a veteran?

I’m going to give you a quick definition of a veteran that I found and like. It brings home the sacrifices that all veterans have made.

A veteran is someone who, at some point in their life, wrote a blank check to their country for any amount up to and including their life. A veteran is a mother, father, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, or anyone. They can be White, Black, Yellow, Brown, Blue, Green, or Pink; it makes no difference; veterans see no color.

We as veterans look at each other and see green—that which we are wearing at times. A veteran can be a Protestant, a Catholic, a Muslim, a Mormon, an Atheist, or any other faith in the world. A veteran is an American, but they could also be a veteran of another country. They are a person who gave part of their life to do their countries bidding.

They missed out on the little things most of us take for granted like children’s parties, school recitals, their baby’s first steps or first words. They came home to a family that sometimes didn’t really remember them. They had changed, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. They may or may not have been in combat; it makes no difference they are still a veteran.

I am a veteran; I spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy and one year of that in Vietnam. My wife, the mother of my children, had to step up and be both father and mother during the times I was deployed. By spending 20 years in the Navy, I put myself behind the friends I graduated high school with as far as the things in life like owning a home and being part of the community. When I retired, I had a lot of catching up to do with my family and friends. My children attended many different schools as we moved every three-four years, they had to make new friends almost every time, and they hated it at the time. But if you ask them now, they will tell you that it was the best thing that they ever did. It was an adventure. I knew the hardships that they were facing, and I didn’t like it, but that is what I chose to do with my life.

When you see a veteran be sure and thank them for their service, it will bring a smile to their face; just don’t grab them from behind to thank them. Some veterans are extremely alert, and being surprised from behind brings back some bad memories.

Are veterans heroes?

I was discussing this with my cousin the other day, and she told me that her dad was her hero not just because he was a WWII veteran but because he was her dad. Everyone has their own personal hero, but to their family and the average person, everyone who has served or is serving is considered a hero. This makes most veterans uneasy because they know the true heroes didn’t come home. They gave their all for their country. As the saying goes, all gave some; some gave all.

Some veterans spend a short time in the service of their country, and some spend enough time to make it a career. According to the Veterans Administration, a person must have completed boot camp/ basic training and have been discharged with other than a dishonorable discharge to be considered a veteran. Every veteran is a brother or sister to every other veteran and always will be. We, as veterans, have been through some of the same things and appreciate what every other veteran goes through. It brings us closer together, like more than a family.

I would like to say thank you to all the military parents who step up and fill in for the deployed parent. It means a lot to those who are deployed, knowing that the family is being taken care of.

I hope this gives you a small understanding of what a veteran is.