On December 8, 1941, just one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, hundreds of thousands of Americans rushed to the nearest enlistment office to pledge their service for their country. One of those Americans was my grandfather, William Schaefer, who, like so many others, volunteered his life despite the almost two years worth of reports on what was shaping up to be the deadliest war in history. It is for that courage and selflessness that we are able to celebrate Veteran’s Day at all. I am beyond proud to say that my grandfather was among the greatest generation and I do my best to honor him at any chance I can but it is important to note, that kind of bravery and heart still exists.
Each generation has seen their peers step up in the face of danger and uncertainty. For my generation, courageous men and women willingly walked towards a new war, one unlike any in history following the attacks on September 11th. These are the people who protect us. They keep us safe, fighting and risking their lives for our freedom and beliefs. They are everyday people with extraordinary character. They are our neighbors, co-workers, classmates, friends and family. They are our heroes and yet they dare not call themselves so. We give them this day and call it theirs, but is one day of the year enough?
While we set aside Veteran’s Day to honor those who have served in our country’s armed forces and Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives for that service, it seems to me we need to keep them in our hearts and minds every day and not just on days now celebrated with great furniture and car sales. Their service, their sacrifice warrants that much more.
My grandfather landed on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944, in what is popularly known as D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, and perhaps the deadliest. With over 10,000 allied casualties suffered in just one day, my grandfather with the 12th U.S. Infantry, at just 5’4” and 125lbs, somehow made it up the embattled and bloodied beaches of France. On June 22, about three miles from Cherbourg, France, he was seriously wounded, a bullet penetrating the left side of his stomach. An operation that left him with several wire sutures and a ten-inch long scar, saved his life, but left him in great pain for the rest of it.
There would be another operation state side and repairs on the wire sutures that gave him great discomfort until the end of his life in 1964, just twenty years later. Reading through his papers my grandmother saved, I found his statement of disability in which he described his daily pain and failing health. As his granddaughter, these are hard words to read. The courage and sacrifice he pledged on a December day in 1944 would be with him to the end. There would be no official retirement and moving on. His scar was permanent, as were the effects of war. So to give him and the millions like him just one or two days a year seems to fall short to me. It is because of him and his fellow service men and women that we are lucky enough to think of war and sacrifice just once or twice a year. They live with it always, carrying often, heavy burdens that exist 365 days a year.
I know life is busy, scattered and sometimes overwhelming. Our day-to-day events are what are always at the forefront of our minds. It is hard enough sometimes to just keep in touch with old friends, let alone remember people we don’t know. But what makes us great as a people and a country is that we do remember and we do honor. Let’s try to take it a step further and encourage others to do the same.
Below I have a few links to some great organizations that work every day to honor those men and women who have given themselves for our country and our freedom, which as we all know is never free. I hope you check them out and find a cause that speaks to you. We all have the power to enrich others and as our heroes have enriched us, let us do what we can to say thank you.
The wounded warrior project’s mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors by bringing awareness to the public the needs of our injured service members.
The Fisher House helps military families by providing housing closed to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.
Operation Gratitude sends care packages and personal letters of encouragement/appreciation to New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named Service Members deployed overseas.
Homes for Our Troops is a nonprofit organization, building specially adapted, mortgage-free homes nationwide for our most severely injured Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hire Heros USA is dedicated to finding employment for our veterans and their spouses.
Above is a link from Military.com that provides a long list of organizations available for our veterans and their families.