My freedom to vote, voice my opinion, wear what I want, work where I want, read what I wish, and attend the church where I want all the freedoms we Americans enjoy. If I am being honest with you and myself, I take them for granted at times, but I catch myself and work much harder not to.
People and circumstances often remind me that our freedoms were, and are still, so hard fought for. To take any of those freedoms for granted is an insult to every person who has honorably served our country.
I look back over the past 18 years and am amazed at how much support and care our local communities have for our veterans and those currently deployed. I say 18 years as that is how long I have been involved in Project Support Our Troops and, most recently, co-founded Embracing Our Veterans. Most of my spare time is spent helping veterans and their families or thinking of additional ways to help those in need.
This journey has been a humbling one. The people I have met and become friends with, and many I now consider family, are the bedrock that our communities stand upon. So many veterans, so many stories, so many needs. Each veteran has a history book unto themselves.
It would be a grave injustice for us not to honor and thank our veterans for their service and sacrifice.
Oh, if you could hear the stories I have been humbled by! History has been shared with me of horrific tragedy, fear, frustration, gut-wrenching sadness, and those times of silliness and joy, the building of brotherhood and sisterhood that never fades. You, too, may carry some of those stories. That part of you that is now a weight, be it a hard one to bear or one that lessens with time. You are a part of the history.
I have been honored and humbled to speak with and interview WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and so many other era veterans. I’ve talked with cooks, Special Forces, pilots, and “grunts” to Navy Seals. Every person provides their best to the area they serve, all spokes in the wheel. The history shared has left me sleepless, upset, filled with righteous anger, humbled, and so very proud.
There are times when, patiently listening to a story unfold, I know I am willingly taking the burden of another. If my doing that has been able to help someone, then that burden is worth it. I am no counselor; I am just someone who cares and is willing to listen.
I am not alone in this, as countless other veterans and family members do the same daily.
Most veterans I know will put themselves out there to help a brother or sister, with their pasts clinging to them, to carry a weight not their own for those who may be struggling or need a friend.
Many of you may know an excellent song by the Hollies, entitled He Ain't Heavy, He’s My Brother.
“The road is long, with many a winding turn.
That leads us to who knows where…who knows where.
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him.
He ain't heavy; he’s my brother.
So on we go, his welfare is my concern.
No burden is he
to bear; we’ll get there.
For I know he would not encumber me
He ain't heavy; he’s my brother.”
For the journey that each veteran has traveled, I thank you. For the countless sacrifices and hidden scars you may carry, I thank you and pray that the remainder of your journey is peaceful.
May God bless America and all who have fought and served to protect her.
Kim Lengling is an author, Co-Chair of Project Support Our Troops, and Co-Founder of Embracing Our Veterans, a 501(c)(3) non-profit helping needy veterans. She can be reached at [email protected]