Last year as I sat down to write my Veteran’s Day message, I felt more personally connected to the importance of this day than at any other time in my life. My 19-year-old son was then in the final weeks of his first training with the U.S. Army and I was learning how to be a military mom. My appreciation for those who were serving and those who had served had never been greater. Or so I thought. A year later, my appreciation has continued to grow and deepen, fueled in large part by having had the opportunity to walk the grounds of the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA on multiple occasions now.
With thousands of artifacts, monuments, interactive exhibits and video presentations on display, the National Infantry Museum is one of the nation’s leading military history destinations. It is filled with inspiring exhibits and stories of those who have served throughout our history and it is impossible to visit without feeling profoundly moved. It is also where family members and loved ones come to witness the heart-stopping pageantry of infantry school graduation on Inouye Field behind the museum. This is where future veterans become part of our long history of service. My favorite parts of the museum are the Heritage Walk and Walk of Honor. Next to the parade grounds of Inouye Field, these walks take you to the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall, the Global War on Terror Memorial and many other beautiful tributes to our Veterans and their histories. The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but I encourage you to check it out online.
Having had the opportunity this past year to connect with the history of military service more personally, this Veteran’s Day I find it meaningful to revisit the origin of Veteran’s Day especially when our country has been through so much in 2020. Originally established by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 as Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day occurs each year on November 11 to honor the bravery and sacrifice of our servicemen and women. Veterans Day reminds us of the freedoms we enjoy, and of those who have served to preserve those freedoms. And as John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” We must be mindful that how we treat our Veterans every other day of the year is as important as how we treat them on Veterans Day. It is about making sure they and their families have the care they need and the benefits that they have earned when they come home.
I am proud to be part of an organization that is committed to doing just that. For over 135 years, United Way has been bringing communities together to serve the common interests of all, particularly our military community. A key initiative is our MISSION UNITED program, the brainchild of a Vietnam Veteran and an Army Dad, which is designed to streamline and simplify the many services available for veterans, active-duty service members, and their families. MISSION UNITED case coordinators are available to help the military community quickly and easily tap into the services they need to resume civilian life. This simple and easy process slashes through red tape and allows our veterans to focus on reimagining and reestablishing their place in their community. MISSION UNITED initiatives are currently operating in 25 communities and services are available by dialing 211 or visiting 211.org.
As the mother of a U.S. Army Soldier, I continue to learn about the depth of the sacrifices our servicemen and women make. In a few weeks, I will tie a yellow ribbon around the magnolia tree in my front yard for the first time. And while last year and this year I can say my appreciation for those who have served has never been greater, I am quite certain it will continue to grow.
This Veterans Day and EVERY day, please join me in honoring our servicemen and women. And if you are a veteran in need of help, please call 211, and let United Way and MISSION UNITED support you.