Veterans Day. This day is set aside each year to honor the brave men and women who serve to protect the freedom that we enjoy. The thanks that we offer never seems to be enough compared to the great sacrifices they have made.
This Veterans’ Day, as we honor those who served, we want to do something different and allow the voices of the Veterans themselves to speak. Listen to their stories…
“I entered Boot Camp for the United States Navy on December 12, 1989. I joined to travel, for the GI Bill, and for the independence and training I would receive. I entered into the Submarine Advanced Electronics and ended up as a Submarine Radioman (RM/SS). My first command was ironically the USS City of
Corpus Christi, but after an asthma attack I was moved to the surface fleet and transferred to the USS Orion and then the USS Simon Lake in La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy, where I spent 5 ½ years.
I was a lifer because I loved the Navy, but a bad car wreck in Daytona Beach messed up my back, neck, and right knee. After a year and a half of physical therapy I was medically discharged just shy of my ten-year anniversary.
As much as I loved the Navy, it had its faults: clean the barracks if you don’t go to church in Boot Camp, evening prayers over the 1MC at night on ship, prayers before ceremonies, and a significant evangelical presence among the sailors and leadership. I fought those as much as I could and made some progress at the command level. Even with its faults the Navy was one of the best experiences of my life. It was, as the commercial stated when I joined, “Not just a job, but an adventure.”
Being a veteran gives me a vested interest in veteran affairs and any legislation that affects us. It also gives me a connection to active duty personnel that makes it so much harder to hear stories of death and dismemberment on the battle field, or the fighting they have to do at home for good health care, psychological care, spousal care, and good pay. The men and women who lay their lives on the line in the defense of our country deserve far better. They deserve to not be eligible for food stamps as an E-5. We deserve continued veteran benefits for our entire lives.
Thanks to the Navy, I did more in the first thirty years of my life than most people could ever do in multiple lifetimes. I miss the uniform, I miss being underway, I miss the ships, I miss the ports-of-call, I miss the teamwork, I miss the mist of waves crashing over the bow, but most of all I miss the camaraderie of my fellow sailors: brothers and sisters to the end.”
–Blair Scott, US Navy
“I was an Army Medic from 1981 – 1984, stationed in Baumholder, Germany and Ft. Benning, GA. I always knew I would serve in the military. My father, grandfather, and so on served. I’ve always had this patriotic idea that my service was for all the benefits I had as an American citizen. Things such as a good education and a good quality of life. During my time on active duty, I had no interest in politics or world affairs. I simply knew duty, honor, and sacrifice. Most of what I knew of President Reagan, I learned from Frank Zappa.
I am still patriotic and I am grateful for our serving men and women. I will continue to support our troops, even if I disagree with why and where we send them.”
–Ken Loukinen, US Army, aka SP4 Ken Paul
“I am an American Atheist and I am an American veteran with 23 years in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was asked to write something in time for Veterans’ Day about my life as a service member and as a veteran and what being a veteran means to me, and I’m late. As of this writing, the sun is setting on Veterans’ Day and it’s unlikely this little piece will get to the right folks in time for use on Veterans’ Day. This lapse was not out of disrespect for our veterans and there is a reason for my apparent procrastination.
We have two holidays in the United States specifically dedicated to honoring veterans. One is Veterans’ Day, in November, and the other is Memorial Day, in May. Veterans’ Day is a day to honor those who served who are still with us, and Memorial Day is to honor those service members who have sacrificed their lives or who have passed away over time.
However, here in Central Texas, right up the road from Fort Hood, it’s impossible to honor veterans without paying respects to those who have passed, because around here, one day a year just isn’t enough.
I’m late with this piece because I spent the long Veterans’ Day weekend helping to raise money for the Central Texas Fallen Heroes Memorial located at our veterans’ cemetery. The memorial includes stones on which the names of the central Texas fallen are engraved and it was unfortunately time to raise money to pay for the installation of a new stone. This was an effort that brought together individuals from every faith (and of course no faith at all), united in a common purpose in order to make sure our fallen are not forgotten. At the same time, we honored our living veterans, those who still bear the scars of their service on the outside or inside or even no scars at all, because they risked everything in services to all of us.
Being a veteran means that I cannot ever forget those who sacrificed so much and I am grateful to all of them, and their families. Thank you fellow veterans, today and every day, for your service and sacrifice, and thank you families for your support!”
–Kathleen Johnson, US Army
American Atheists offer its grateful thanks to all veterans who have given so much. You are loved and appreciated.