Sunday is Veteran's Day. This past Saturday, we held a parade in honor of Veteran's Day in my community. There were several organizations that came together to march in gratitude and appreciation for those who have served in our Armed forces.
I marched with a Veteran Outreach group I volunteer with here in Texas called BEITZ, which, along with this awesome non-profit group, Family of a Vet, has opened its arms to include me, the mom of a combat veteran suffering from PTSD and a TBI. As I walked along helping to hold up our banner, I felt a multitude of emotions: pride, thankfulness, companionship, acceptance, and yes, a bittersweet sense of “if only”.
I felt pride in our troops, just as I have from the time I was a little girl taking pictures with our family friend, “Uncle Willie”, a Vietnam soldier home on leave and later on, as a military spouse. I felt thankfulness for being able to live in a land where I can be free to worship, free to vote, free to be female and live out my dreams thanks to those who have stood and defended this country for over 200 years and those who still do so today.
I felt companionship because I was walking with a group of family members and veterans who understood my roller coaster days living with a loved one who has PTSD and a brain injury from combat. Being understood is something we all hope to find in our daily lives among our friends and yes, strangers we come in contact with. Being supported and encouraged by others who walk or have walked in your shoes is a wonderful light in a tunnel where you are unsure of which way to go. I feel accepted by FOV and my local group because we truly are a team of fighters and spirited people ready to go the distance for our loved ones and each other.
Still, there is that “if only” feeling. If only my son hadn't joined the Army just weeks before 9/11. If only I had never had a special fondness for the military, if my kids had not been raised as military brats, maybe he would not have shown the interest he did. If only I had hog-tied him and kept him home and refused to let him go to basic three weeks after that fateful September day. If only.
I am PROUD of my son. I miss the part of him that PTSD has taken over but I am still very much proud of who he was and, most of the time, who he is today. He and so many others are part of why we have the freedoms we have, the the pride we have, the uniting as a family we have when things like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 happen.
As we walked along, I saw some women on the sidewalk holding pictures of loved ones in uniform. While holding up my end of the banner with my left hand, I saluted them with my right. One started tearing up and said “Thank you!” I don't know if their loved ones were away on active duty, at work, had passed or, like my son and many other veterans, staying home because their PTSD makes them uncomfortable being recognized and around crowds.
If you feel any or all of these feelings, please know that FOV is a family that understands. Email us if you would be interested in our organization or if you need help finding local resources. We are here for each other and we would like to be here for you.