For the Fighting

wear blue: run to remember has a strong focus on remembrance of the fallen; our recent participation in the Marine Corps Marathon showcased the strength of that aspect of our community. Veterans Day gives us an opportunity to highlight and honor a second aspect – those currently serving and those who have served.  It’s important to note that while we always remember and honor the fallen, Veterans Day is about honoring those who serve.

USAA Banking provides financial services and support to the military community. Their television advertisement states, “We know what it means to serve…”  Unfortunately, the vast majority of our population does not.  The military, and our veteran community, has been blessed with a resurgence of support from our nation, but the number of people willing, and able, to serve is relatively small.  According to 2014 census bureau statistics, there are an estimated 21.8 million veterans in our 318 million-person population – a mere 6.8% of the residents in the United States.  There are varying reports of exactly how many people have served but the simple fact remains that less than 10% of our country’s population has any understanding of the challenges that service in our nation’s military demands.

So – being a veteran puts you in a select group.  Veterans know what it means to serve and most do so selflessly.  Not wanting special attention or accolades, veterans serve their nation, their communities and most importantly – one another.  Sharing humorous stories, an appreciation for mutual hardships and an acronym-laden vocabulary, they have a special bond with their fellow service members.  If they want for anything, it’s for their service to be meaningful and to be remembered.

Our nation owes our veteran population a debt of gratitude for doing a job most are reluctant to do.  We pay that debt by showing genuine interest in the stories of our senior veterans, connecting with the unsung heroes of the Vietnam era, and meaningful engagement with our post-9/11 veteran community.  We pay the debt through uncompromising and unwavering commitment to our veteran’s health-care needs; we pay that debt through acts of remembrance and by simply saying thank-you.

I firmly believe, on this special day, we should also honor and remember the family members of veterans.  For the past 14 years, children all across the country took photos of their deployed parents to school.   Many moms, dads, husbands, and wives have worked tirelessly through multiple year-long deployments alone, while their loved ones serve.  14 years of enduring separations, fraught with worry – our family members perform herculean tasks with little or no recognition while enduring the heavy burden of a life of service.  Caregiver, homemaker, volunteer – these amazing individuals truly “know what it means to serve.”  Veteran families are infinitely worthy of our admiration and respect.

Finally, whenever I find myself flying and being asked by the person next to me, “What do you do?” I answer proudly – “I’m a Soldier in the Army.”  I am both privileged and humbled to serve alongside my fellow service members and their families.  I’m proud of the commitment wear blue: run to remember has for honoring the fallen, the fighting, and the families.  They are paying the debt of gratitude one purposeful step at a time. -COL Dave Leach, November 2015