Columnist gains a new perspective on today's veterans
By TRISHA PHELPS
Mt. Pleasant News
While I have always had a lot of respect for veterans, it took some time for me to realize that a veteran isn’t just some old guy who fought a long time ago.
Both of my grandfathers served in the military, one during peacetime and the other during World War II. I was raised with a very deep respect for the men and women in our armed forces.
When I was quite young, a veteran in my eyes was always someone in my grandparents’ generation. Growing up, my best friend’s grandfathers were also veterans, so in my mind at the time, all veterans were grandpas.
The first time that mindset was challenged for me was when a guy from my hometown came back from Desert Storm and my family went to a parade to welcome him home. I was still pretty young then, so to me, veterans were still pretty old.
The Sept. 11 attacks happened when I was in eighth grade. I remember sitting in the art classroom at school and listening to the other kids talk about how they thought we should send soldiers to whoever attacked us to teach them a lesson.
As a junior high student, I didn’t personally know anyone that would have been of the right age to serve in the military. While I wasn’t overly fond of the idea of sending boys from my hometown to fight in some war, I didn’t really know any of them personally so I got to remain somewhat naïve.
The older I became, I grew more aware that veterans were no longer men my grandfathers’ ages, but they were also boys that I grew up with.
First, a guy I remembered as an upper classman from band got deployed, and then a classmate’s older brother.
All too soon, I found myself at an assembly in the W-MU gymnasium at a send off for boys from Winfield in the 832nd Engineer Company out of Mt. Pleasant.
For the first time it really hit me. I was sending soldiers off that I knew. These were boys from my classes in high school, some a grade younger than me, and one was even the boy from junior high that my friends and I thought of as a kid brother. These boys were now soldiers, soon to be veterans. Veterans were no longer only my grandfathers’ ages, but they were now my age too.
I remember waiting and being so excited for these soldiers to get back from deployment, because it still just didn’t seem quite right to me that my friends were old enough to be soldiers.
When the 832nd came home July of 2011, I was glad to have things back to normal.
A week later, I met my boyfriend, Scott. He deployed with the 832nd. Through getting to know Scott and his buddies my views of veterans have changed even more.
Now that I am a member of the 832nd Family Readiness Group, have gotten used to Scott going to drill once a month and am getting ready for a close friend of Scott’s to deploy, it has definitely sunk in that veterans are no longer as removed from myself as I once thought they were.
While my views of the age range of a veteran have changed over the years, the amount of respect that I have for the brave men and women in our armed forces has not. I encourage everyone to find out when Veterans Day services are in their community and attend them.