Hays: Love, sweet love and ‘my’ veteransWritten by Pam Hays | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I was recently criticized by someone for how I refer to veterans whom I have assisted. She posted her criticism on a social media site, and I must say, veterans were quick to come to my defense. Here is the thing: She doesn’t work with veterans, nor is she a veteran, but she felt that when I called them “my veterans,” referring to those I have helped in some way or another, that it was disrespectful. I tried to explain to her what I meant, but she was not feeling the love.
Having a pretty large presence in social media, where I share from a deep emotional place, with arms and heart open to engage people to learn more about our veterans and invisible wounds, it didn’t take long for the comments to flow in from those I call “my veterans.”
I didn’t have to do anything else to show the naysayer the reasons behind the statement, as my veterans, their spouses and their family members took to posting about how they loved that I referred to them and their family members as “my” and saw it as a term of endearment. They thought it showed an emotional connection with the veteran, not just a superficial offer of help, something they are all too familiar with.
I love words and that is why I am a writer and a speaker. I know the power of them and am diligent about what I say and how I say it. My veterans know me well and I know them well. I hear their silent cries and see their invisible tears and I listen to their stories. They know that it is the love of one human being for another that binds us together and that is why they see the term “my veteran” as kind and loving and accepting.
Our veterans may have had experiences different than most of us have had, but at the heart of it all, they are humans who want to be understood, nurtured, accepted and loved. I get the concern of the woman who expressed her dislike of the word “my.” She thought it meant that I “owned” them and told them what to do. I never considered that definition, as that is not at all how I am personally or professionally.
As the president of The Arms Forces, I partner with veterans and families to help them discover options that fit their life. They make the choices. Partnering is a different concept from counseling or referring or offering options.
Partnering means we walk side-by-side on the journey as they find their places in the community as civilians, now with the invisible wounds of traumatic brain injury or PTSD. Partnering means we are equal, with no hierarchy creating walls in the relationship. And yes, the word relationship is important, as I believe you can’t really assist someone until you know them. It takes time and openness and vulnerability on both sides but without these things you are back to the superficiality that never gets to the root of change.
Valentine’s Day is marketed as a day of love between lovers. But I never bought into the day of forced signs of affection for one person in your life. I would rather be loved for the person I am and the worth that I bring to this world every day, than to be showered with heart-shaped boxes of candy and cards with sentiments written by someone other than the person who says they love me on a day created to further retail sales.
I feel the same about designated days to honor veterans. It isn’t something we should do one day of the year between our day off and a parade and cookout. Showing love, care and respect to them should be something we do as we go about our daily lives.
I think we should all call our veterans “my veterans” and own up to the fact that we all have to step up and learn more and do more out of love for our family of humans. I love my veterans and I am proud of it!
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces, www.thearms forces.org; (419) 891-2111; Facebook.com/thearmsforces.