Veterans sacrifice for greater good

Published 12:20 am Sunday, November 11, 2018

Today, as we celebrate Veterans Day, I will never forget someone who wasn’t a veteran, but who understood their sacrifice and tried to help provide a little enjoyment for them.

She was a kind woman who worked at an Ohio post office in the small town in which I lived for a few years. I never learned her name, but will never forget her face or her kind deeds.

She gave me a wink and nod when I knowingly bent a few U.S. Postal regulations to send my nephew serving in Iraq a small taste of home.

Once the lady behind the counter realized the bottles of peach Snapple I was sending was headed to a soldier, she leaned over and whispered, “Did you pack them really good so they won’t break?”

I nodded and she smiled. A few weeks later those bottles made to a military outpost in Iraq, not a one was cracked.

Without her kindness, it wouldn’t have happened.

Like thousands of Americans my thoughts will drift to the many relatives and friends who have defended our nation over the years in service in the armed forces.

We would all be doing a disservice to those heroes if we also didn’t remember the sacrifices of those around them — the sometimes forgotten supporting cast and the people like the woman at the post office who did small parts to help their service go a little easier.

Veterans Day is a holiday set aside to say “thank you” for the service of our country’s veterans, but we should also use the day to offer gratitude for the spouses, parents, children and friends of those soldiers as well.

Though their sacrifice may not be as in the line of fire as the actual military members, make no bones about it, their enemies are no less frightening — fear, doubt, worry and loneliness, just to name a few.

Through the years, my work for newspapers has afforded me the privilege to interview and photograph dozens of veterans, from World War II through the modern war on terror.

Those stories have ranged from soldiers who simply were in the military but never saw action to soldiers that were tested under heavy fire.

But through all of those stories, the thing that has always amazed me is the humbleness most veterans have toward their service and the gratitude they have for the simple cards, pictures, letters or phone calls from home that kept them motivated.

Today, while not diminishing the sacrifices of modern soldiers, military personnel and their families are often able to communicate with one another, even halfway around the world through the means of technology.

But during World War II, Korea and Vietnam mothers had no idea if their sons fighting in the war were alive for weeks or months at a time; wives did not know if their husbands were still OK.

That must have been agonizingly difficult simply not to know their status, fearing for the worst at every turn and not have the ability to hear the reassurance of their voices for long stretches of time. Hollywood likes to play upon the drama of such periods of separation.

For the vast majority, their lives are not filled with Hollywood-like drama and intrigue but simply the tortuous reality of living apart from one another with the knowledge that the work the soldier is doing is inherently dangerous.

Indeed, both sides of the equation — the soldier and the support family — give deeply to our country and for their service we owe them a deep gratitude.

As you go through the day today, if you see a veteran, please stop them and say “thanks.” But immediately after thank any of their nearby relatives, too.

They gave up the comfort of having those soldiers close by so we could all be safe, and we should be grateful to all.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.