A veteran, according to the dictionary, is a person that has served in the armed forces. Veterans that have had direct exposure to acts of military conflict are often called war veterans.
I am married to a veteran. I have family and friends that are either veterans or war veterans. On this day and every day, I have tremendous respect and appreciation.
The popular images of veterans are usually old men in pointy hats, decorated soldiers in starched dress, and sadly, the wounded and displaced. As with all things, the popular images, while part of the story, do not encompass the whole.
Here’s what does not often come to mind on Veterans Day…
A small woman, we are talking five feet small, with red hair and an obsessive need to clean things. Caring, dorky funny with a penchant for shoes and kitchen gadgets. A woman that wears her emotions right up front, drinks tea and holds strong during the worst of times. Polite, a huge hinter and often appeasing. This woman swears she played basketball in high school, but we are all pretty sure that’s just a dream she refuses to wake up from.
This woman is my mother and she is a Vietnam War Veteran.
Eileen was an lieutenant, stationed in San Francisco. I categorize her as a “war” veteran because she served as a nurse. She certainly had “direct exposure to acts of military conflict”. She saved lives and witnessed death and suffering on a daily basis.
I wasn’t around back then, but I’m guessing she was pretty close to the woman I know today.
Her kindness and sense of humor certainly helped calm young, scared men as she asked them to endure the unthinkable to keep them alive. I’m sure she cried often and the tea kept her awake through many a long shift. I’ll bet she was tidy even back then, and managed her staff with, not so subtle, hinting. Being a woman in a man’s world most likely required equal parts strength and appeasement. I’m sure she was fantastic.
Not all veterans are literal fighters, not all of them are men and women that come home from war or conflict. Some veterans are small, gentle, solid, brave, unwavering healers of the pain and destruction of war. They are rarely decorated and never touted, but without them all the might that is our military would surely faultier.
Happy Veterans Day, Mom. Thank you for your service.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Hospital Corners.