It’s absolutely fashionable to be a patriot and most of all, thanking a veteran is totally “in”. While the day does often bring a great deal of thrifty sales, be sure not to loose sight of what today actually means.
This morning, I met my teammates in Central Park at 4:45 to run in two columns to our rendezvous point with Instructor Jack Walston, veteran and Navy SEAL. Yet, in classic SEAL form, he ambushed us and ordered us to cover the remaining ground by doing “duck squats”. (It goes like this: squat and remain with your butt on your heels as you move each half of your body painfully forward one little waddle step at a time.)
This was the start to a brutal Day 4 of Navy SEAL PT bootcamp. And, while Walston’s bootcamp ends tomorrow, my training will continue until next week when I will finally run in the Tough Mudder, a 12-mile run with 19 obstacles designed by the British Special Forces — so it includes things like four crazy water challenges, scaling 10-foot walls, running through a field of fire.
But why? Well, the reasons why I am doing all these crazy things are neatly intertwined. A year ago this week, this blog was put on hold for more than three months as I was hospitalized for a Traumatic Brain Injury, (Read: A Bump In the Road). Now, as a celebration of surviving and recovering, I decided to take on the most physically and mentally challenging event to-date, The Tough Mudder.
But, aside from me taking on myself, running the Tough Mudder is about me running for all those troops who will never run again, or for those troops learning to run again due to TBI or other sustained injuries from war zones. Indeed, in the course of my training, I have encountered my own TBI issues, some of it actually cutting short or stopping my training.
But other times, when it is just a physical pain of being out-of-shape and the thought of quitting creeps in my mind, I quickly am encouraged to push through as I remember all those times that I would have given anything to feel the wind in my face and the normalcy of “working out.” And simultaneously, I rem ember the troops who have felt the same as I, or those who will never have such yearning thoughts realized again.
As fate would have it, Instructor Walston is in town this week and what better last push in preparation then some good old fashioned Navy SEAL PT (physical training). Truly, this Navy SEAL PT bootcamp has been a godsend as the dwindling days until Nov. 20th’s Tough Mudder has left me with increasing trepidation. Mostly, the fear from: Will I be able to handle the weather, being soaking wet, the obstacles — especially those requiring upper body strength — and still finish it? Now, thanks to Instructor Walston’s tender loving care, I am feeling a lot more confident.
All proceeds from the Tough Mudder entrance fees go to The Wounded Warrior Project, and participants, like myself, are also making additional donations on the day of.
If you would like to contribute to my efforts in running the Tough Mudder in support of our troops and TBI victims, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, below is an editorial I wrote a number of years ago, when I was the business editor at a Gannett newspaper in Maryland. Here’s to our troops — thank you! And to our great country — may it be blessed.
Veterans Deserve Greater Respect from All
By Robin Wallace
(Published: Delmarva Business Weekly, The Daily Times, November 15, 2004)
How did you spend Thursday? The air was brisk filled with a sweet musty scent as the leaves falling from trees meet the sun’s beams that danced across the radiant autumn splendor. Yes, it was a beautiful day, but how did you spend it?
Did you enjoy the day with a walk through the park? Did you trudge through work counting down the hours? Did you take leave the office early to catch the department store’s sale? Did you swear at the traffic keeping you from getting home sooner?
I ask what you did for a very specific reason, because most likely the things that you did on Thursday completely missed the mark of what the day was meant to be. On Thursday, did you happen to tick off the box on your check list to “thank and show appreciation to a veteran and veterans.”
I am sure the holiday of Veterans Day was carefully observed by those who have near and distant loved ones donned in an U.S. Armed Forces uniform. But what about the rest of us Americans, who learn about war from text books, the headlines or the stories told by a grandfather. War is not personally known, nor is the ever-present threat for the call of combat duty. Veterans Day is to celebrate and honor those who have fought and served in combat or during a time of conflict. It is a day for Americans to recognize, to give a civilian salute acknowledging and applauding the sacrifices of life, limb and heart for the protection, as well as preservation of our very privileged lifestyle of freedom.
But by and large, showing appreciation to veterans goes beyond this one marked national holiday. It extends into every day of our lives. Have you ever thought how it makes a veteran feel to see young men leave their hats and caps on during the Pledge of Allegiance or the playing of the national anthem? Do you know what it does to a veteran when they see people scurrying about before a game or concert too busy to actually stop and pay respect to the raising of the flag as the anthem is performed?
How do you think it makes a veteran feel to see the flag flying in front of businesses and homes all tattered and torn, through foul weather without relief and through the night without the decency of illumination?
It burns an anger so hot and cuts a pain so deep that few would be able to understand how such seemingly trivial acts could stir this arousal of passion. These apparently harmless incidents create such an arousal of emotion in airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines because by disrespecting the symbols and ceremonies of our country, you are in turn disrespecting all that they have given. A serviceman holds the national symbols of freedom with the utmost respect as it is the protocol of the military.
But upon completing their duty, serving in combat and being able to tread within the land of the free knowing that it exists due to the dedication and motivation of them and those before them is when it becomes something that is personal. It is the flag that they wore on their shoulder, fought under and buried comrades beneath. It is the anthem of the sweetest and bitterest pitches telling the tale of their strength, courage, pain, loss and victory.
Veterans Day is their day, but how do we mark it? For the most part, Americans know this day by the widespread national sales events, where every department store and car dealership discount goods for a couple days of impulse shopping. How does spending and saving money honor veterans? It seems that we might be too busy to stand still long enough to hear “The Star Spangled Banner”, yet we are never too busy to miss out on saving a couple of bucks.
Somehow we manage to forget the laws governing the display of the American Flag, but we can remember from what hours the door-busters sales begin at which stores and what items are being discounted.
Partaking in our free economy is naturally our right as a free society, but in taking advantage of such opportunities it is vital to remember why we have such a luxury.
While federal and state agencies, do no business on Veterans Day, most all private companies continue commerce. Yet, have you ever stopped to wonder why a veteran has to ask off — taking a day without pay or using a vacation day — to honor his own service and the memories of those fallen?
America can do better, but it doesn’t begin with the commander-in-chief. It begins with you and I setting a precedent for a code of conduct. Nine times out of 10, a veteran is a patriot, but a patriot doesn’t have to be a veteran. A patriot is being a person who respects and honors their country throughout all formalities and observances, which shows a veteran that you truly respect and honor our country, as well as their service and sacrifices.
Thursday has already come and gone. For some the day came with more appropriately directed fanfare than for others, however it is never too late to show your appreciation. The are several ways that you can support our troops currently serving and those who have served by being a proactive citizen. If flags are displayed incorrectly or in a disgraceful manner, mention it to a manager or offer your neighbor a new flag.
- If the pledge or anthem is slated to be recited and performed, mention it beforehand to those around you to remove their caps and hats.
- If you are at the hot dog stand as the national anthem begins, excuse yourself from your business and explain that you must observe the anthem in respect.
- If you are a manager or employee, allow veterans a day off, with pay, at no penalty of their annual vacation allotment.
- If you spend the holiday shopping, observe the punctuation of Veterans Day as advertised in national campaigns. I promise you, that you will be hard pressed to find a correct presentation of the holiday — If you see signs or flyers reading Veteran’s Day, or Veterans’ Day sales, call the stores and make them aware of their blaring mistake.
It is embarrassing to see all of these blunders committed on a daily and annual basis. Let us work together as a community, as a band of patriotic Americans so that these veterans who have and are protecting our shores will surely know how much their service honestly means to us.
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