Today, as I sit and write this, the sky is blue, and the breeze is relaxing as it soars through the warm air. It’s a day that makes me feel like all is right in the world, even if it is not. These are the times I truly appreciate my freedoms, and as I reflect back on the last few weeks of emotional interviews, I can’t help but feel extreme gratefulness for the sacrifices made by America’s military personnel and complete sorrow for what they have seen and lost.
It occurred to me, during these interviews, how fortunate I was to be hearing their stories—a civilian who could never fully comprehend what they experienced. The accounts ranged from fond memories to heartbreaking experiences of loss and trauma. I engaged in moments of laughter, education, and sorrow, as tears choked their words.
In the process, I had some “aha” moments about past relationships and friendships. In hindsight, it helps me to understand some reactions and behaviors from people in my life. While it can’t excuse the trauma inflicted on me in a few situations, it does help me to find a bit of sympathy for the experiences that led to their behaviors.
It is easy for those of us who are born and raised in America to take our freedoms for granted, but as the saying goes, “Freedom is not free.” I was nearly struck dumb when Parish Tanner told me an average of 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Twenty-two. He was the final interview of this series, and as I thought back about the stories of lost friends, health problems, and children, both innocent and manipulated to kill, it is amazing the number isn’t higher.
While understanding this may be difficult, I want you to keep in mind that these extraordinary individuals are making a difference for veterans, first responders, and those just transitioning back into civilian life. It is a fact that, as civilians, we will never understand military life or be able to fully process what our veterans have experienced, but it is my hope that these stories will inspire you to support organizations who help veterans and, as always, connect the thread of humanity and compassion.