Veterans Day, traditionally November 11, will be observed this Monday. It gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of the Armed Services. As we do, we embrace them in all of their complexity.
As the average age of men and women in the Armed Forces rises, many are a part of the Sandwich Generation, concerned about caring for family members at home as they continue their service to the country. Their burden becomes especially apparent on Veterans Day, a time for all of us to honor American veterans of all wars.
Yet, even on Veterans Day, controversy surrounds the most meaningful ways to pay homage to those who have served in the past and support our troops who are still in harm’s way. Society’s view of veterans has reflected how Americans feel about the wars their country fights. Veterans reminiscing in Ken Burns’ recent documentary series on World War II noted how unity in the country was palpable at that time, acknowledging the bravery and service of the young men and women of the “Greatest Generation.”
Now, however, as during the Vietnam war, Veterans Day is as likely to touch off a storm of anti-war protest as it is to perpetuate a peaceful time of reflection and thanksgiving. There are heated discussions about whether or not to show flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, how the names of those who have given their lives in service are to be used, and whether veterans are treated fairly by their employers.
What lessons can we, Baby Boomer members of the Sandwich Generation ourselves, take from veterans – those who have stood up for the rest of us and given their all to protect our way of life? As we respect their unique bravery, we can direct what we learn to our own family situation by applying the same principles to those closest to us.
Begin by expressing the gratitude you feel for what your family members have given you – protection, opportunities, love, strength, enjoyment of life. You have doors open to you now because of them. This can begin with something as simple as a heartfelt “thank you,” and develop into a more textured and thoughtful recognition of what you are thankful for.
Think about additional examples that may work for you in your family and we will discuss more of them next week.