Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier
The veterans I have come to know throughout my life are some of the strongest, sweetest and most stubborn men I know. Seeing these men, you may forget all that they did when they served. They were young, left their families, went to new places and were trained on how to fight for our freedom. Back then, the only way to communicate with their loved ones was more than likely through handwritten letters.
My late grandfather was a Marine--a very proud Marine. He loved to tell stories of his friends in the military and the fun things they would do on their weekends off. My grandfather was fortunate to have never seen war, but he was still just like the best of them. Watching my mom tell him he could no longer mow the lawn or do heavy lifting, was not something he wanted to hear. He was a Marine and old habits die hard. He would obey the “rules” of his commanding officer (his daughter that is) but the minute she wasn’t looking and he could get away with it--he would, just like that young 20-something Marine that he was on the inside.
Volunteering at my church, I came to know several veterans who would proudly show up wearing baseball caps or t-shirts with their military branch on it. One particular veteran, nearing 90, would wear his Vietnam hat while helping move boxes and carry things. No matter how many times I would tell him not to hurt himself or to take a break, he wouldn’t. He is still that 20-something, strong soldier who doesn’t need a break.
Working alongside these men, it would be easy to forget they are their own breed. They may not look like soldiers in their prime, but inside, they still are. Each year at my church’s 9-11 Remembrance Mass, I’m reminded of who they are on the inside. At the mass, our priest asks that all active and retired military members process in to the church and sit in a special section to be recognized for their service. Some of these veterans would wear their uniforms, others shirts with their branch on it. Despite having walkers, canes or even breathing machines, they would walk in like they were in their prime--heads held high, almost marching. One particular year, our priest asked that each military member came to the podium to share their name, branch and rank. Each person, no matter how young, or young at heart, made it up the step on the altar and did just that. I felt like as they each spoke into the mic, you no longer saw “an old veteran” you saw each young man and woman in their uniform, in their prime. You heard their pride as they said their branch, and fellow members would raise a hand to salute them.
As caregivers, we need to remember that. We need to care for them like that.
Once a young, strong, tough soldier, always a soldier, even if we call them veterans.
July's blog written by guest author, Sabrina Plumb, Communications Coordinator.