Hays: Show vets the loveWritten by Pam Hays | | email@example.com
Ugh! It’s February and I feel so pressured to write about love.
But love doesn’t always conjure memories of kind words, flowers, backrubs, cute nicknames and romantic dinners. I know many, myself included, who have felt the sting of those three words: I love you.
I remember someone who was quite evil to me, who caused me great physical, emotional and financial harm, saying, “But, I love you” and making me feel like every bone in my body exploded. I said to him, “How can you make the three most beautiful words in the world sound so hateful?”
Love is what makes the world go ‘round and its opposite, hatred, can bring it to a halt. But something I think is even more dangerous than hatred is apathy.
People say they love others and then continue to ignore their plight, too busy to do anything self-sacrificing for another unless it comes with some notoriety or tangible reward On patriotic holidays we put flags on our porches and say we love our country, but what do we personally do to ensure those who protect our country have their needs met and know they are loved?
Most of us past the age of 30 know, or should know, that our Vietnam veterans were not treated with respect when they came home from war. Because of that, they knew they were not loved. Why? Because respect goes hand in hand with love. If we shout at someone, spit at them or call them a bad name, no one can expect to feel loved when on the receiving end of such expressions. I hear a lot of people say we can’t allow what happened to our veterans back then happen today. But, we are allowing it. Why? Because apathy is setting in.
Civilians and nonmilitary families can watch the news and read the articles and become disinterested in the ongoing battles of our military, veterans and their families. We can see the evergrowing possibility of more wars as no more than a nuisance in our lives. We see war as a thing and not as the people involved in fighting them and the families who love them. We see the visible and the invisible wounds as sad stories that might make us tear up, but most don’t see the very real day-to-day sacrifices made so we can all live as free Americans in this great country.
We can agree or disagree on military action, but we cannot become divided on the support of those willing to go into battle to fight for our freedoms when asked. We cannot become apathetic to their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families. We cannot say we are sorry to one generation of veterans and repeat the lack of respect, the lack of love, with another generation. We must become more aware of what is being done to help veterans in our own area. We can’t assume it is someone else’s responsibility to do the work and not involve ourselves. Please don’t say you love our military, veterans and our country and then never get involved. A sacrifice from you can make a difference in their lives.
You can become part of creating a new generation of veterans that will sit around years from now and tell stories about how their community stepped up and made sure they felt loved and respected for their military service. You can be a part of righting the wrongs from the past by ensuring the military’s younger generations never feel the pain of the words “We love you. We support you” being made empty through lack of action. You can make sure that your words match your actions. The VA won’t do it all. The huge organizations won’t do it all. It is what individual communities do that has the most impact on veterans and their families reintegrating back home to their new lives.
Love doesn’t mean never saying you’re sorry, to paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, “Love Story.” But love does include being sorry for hurting another and meaning those words. It also means changing yourself or the circumstances so you won’t hurt them again. It means we learn from our mistakes and never again want to feel the shame and pain we felt when we hurt someone we loved. I know most of you feel like I do. I love my country, my military, my veterans and their families from the deepest part of my heart. That’s not just during this month of love, but every day, every month, every year, forever. Let’s make sure we mean it when we say, “I love our military and veterans!”
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces, thearmsforces.org; (419) 891-2111.