It is ironic that Veterans Day is wedged between Election Day and Thanksgiving Day.
More than a coincidence, recent alleged statements from America’s top political figure to a grieving widow whose husband was killed on Oct. 4 in an ambush in a West African country comes just before those three eventful dates.
Not only were the allegations inappropriate and offensive given the fact the 45th representative neither served in any military branch of the United States military but that he was not elected by a majority of the American populace.
To imply that everyone who volunteers service “knows what they signed up for” is neither comforting nor consoling to any grieving spouse.
But that was what he said and most offensive is the fact, the bereaved widow is pregnant, compounded with that at a Miami airport she was told she could not see the body of her spouse that was allegedly inside a flag-draped, decorated casket.
A more politically correct statement might have been “Thank You For Your Service.”
It is a phrase routinely banded about by conscientious citizens who come in contact with uniformed service members.
The simple acknowledgement of gratitude seems the least any citizen can ever offer strangers who unselfishly serve their country.
There is a film of that title, now in theaters that addresses the issue of returning veterans who privately suffer from post traumatic stress disorder related to actual brain injury or even from witnessing a traumatic incident while on active duty.
Based on a true incident, the timely film released late last month, skims the surface of the tremendous sacrifice families endure when a member dons a uniform, carries the flag and gravely suffers effects from the ultimate sacrifice.
Myeshia Johnson is now struggling to understand how she will go on following the death of her 25-year-old husband Sgt. La David Johnson.
That she is now a widow, head of a household and mother to two more children is also now subjected to scrutiny for being the topic of a national disgrace during her period of bereavement.
The fact her husband was deployed to Niger, Africa, killed and left un-retrieved for two days compounds the sadness. The soldier was initially missing in the wake of the attack, becoming separated from a 12-member team when they were ambushed by 50 ISIS fighters.
Nigerian troops found Johnson’s body about a mile from the scene of the ambush two days after the tragedy.
“I want to know why it took them 48 hours to find my husband,” Johnson said during an interview, adding that she was told very little about her husband’s death.
“Why couldn’t I see my husband?”
“Every time I asked to see my husband, they wouldn’t let me.”
Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Committee on Armed Services said he did not know of any US troops being deployed to Niger.
How could that be?
Florida, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a Democrat and friend of the Johnson family, accompanied Johnson’s widow in a limousine to receive the soldier’s body from Dover Air Force Base and became another headline to the tragic story due to a phone call while on the way.
On speaker phone, she said she heard the condolence message from President Donald Trump.
Wilson claimed that the president told the widow her husband “knew what he signed up for.”
The politician was outraged and the White House has not refuted that Trump spoke those words.
Perhaps all police officers, firefighters, and all frontline responders are all aware of what they sign up for when they decide to serve.
But compassion goes a long way and expressing gratitude could better console a painful soul.
That there is a day to acknowledge the men and women who delve into danger — regardless of the consequences — is one to be honored and give pause.
As an 18-year veteran of the US Army Reserve, the many men and women whom I served with in the 340th Public Affairs Detachment nostalgically recall our many annual tours to Panama, Honduras, and virtually more than a dozen states throughout the USA with pride.
Danger and peril were probably imminent through all those tours of duty but these days, even walking in a crosswalk or worshipping in a church can be fatal.
From Basic Training in Aniston, Alabama where mini military exercises of war games introduced bivouacs, night marches, obstacle courses, rifle range practices, first aid courses and other military preparedness exercises, simple map reading seemed a fearful challenge to overcome in order to graduate.
However, throughout those training missions, the thought of enlisting in order to die was never foremost in my thought.
At the time of enlistment there were individuals who volunteered service for various reasons — the benefits seemed alluring, family tradition, job opportunity, securing Democracy etc to most it seemed it was mostly about service.
Each re-enlistment presented an out but for the cadre of soldiers in my unit, our role seemed important to completing the entire picture. And after the first three years, each opportunity to remain a unit seemed inevitable despite no offer of incentives of bonus or enticements at the time.
And while thousands probably ponder each signing, family and service seems the deciding factors.
While veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are to be regaled on Veterans Day, citizens who serve as police officers, fire fighters and first responders should also be thanked for signing on.
The aforementioned movie now in cinemas — Thank You For Your Service — treads softly into the lives of post-war soldiers who served in Iraq. That they were able to make it back home to families seems a gratifying experience and gift. However, the film delves deep to reveal that of the survivors more than a few return less than whole.
No spoiler-alert is necessary to feel and empathize with individuals who visit warzones, face the enemy and return home to less-than-perfect communities.
On Oct. 20, Universal and DreamWorks Pictures announced a partnership with Chinese-owned AMC Theaters to give more than 10,000 free tickets to veterans and service members.
The gesture is commendable to thank a few for their service.
Given the comraderie I experienced, it seems a travesty that many individuals are able to elude service or are unable to serve.
Perhaps in nations where compulsory service is the order, a better appreciation of flag, country and duty are regarded with more meaning and understanding.
On Veterans Day, and every day, to everyone who serve, thank you for your service.
Catch You On The Inside!