Growing up in Fayetteville, the military has always been a natural part of life. Even before meeting my step-father, who serves in the Army, evidence of our city’s ties to military can be seen everywhere. From an amazing Airborne museum, a variety of monuments all over the city, and simply seeing men in uniform all over town. However, despite all of this, I’m ashamed to say that I never quite understood the point of Veteran’s Day. I was raised to always honor and respect the military, no matter the day of the year. Even now, as a military spouse, I would say that my support and pride of my husband is simply part of the job description, and not something that can be condensed to just once a year. But, this year, I feel a little different. This year my husband is not only a soldier, but a wounded warrior. As my husband and I prepare ourselves for the mental and emotional struggle of working towards his return to work, we have been overwhelmed by the number of organizations willing to offer us help and support. Through this experience, I have come to realize that Veteran’s Day is not meant to be the only day we show our respect to the military, but rather the day that we do so as a community.
As I am writing this, I am sitting in an apartment outside of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where my husband has been continually receiving treatment since he was first flown here from his duty station in early September after receiving a TBI (traumatic brain injury) from a penetrating head wound. The amount of support that he has received from the nurses, staff, and volunteers here at the hospital has been overwhelming. With Veteran’s Day approaching, he and I are also beginning to realize that the support does not stop once we leave the hospital. Already, our community at home in Florida is preparing for its Emerald Coast Honor Games where they will honor the veterans, wounded warrrios, and service members within our county.
My hometown in Fayetteville, NC is ready for their annual Veteran’s Day parade. Across the United States everyone, not just the military installations and existing supporting organizations, is preparing some kind of ceremony or day of recognition. This is truly an amazing thing. It is so easy for our veterans and wounded soldiers to feel as though they are forgotten by everyone other than their immediate family.
Veteran’s Day, I have come to realize, is the day that we as a nation come out in a show of force to support our Armed Forces. It is the day that we, in many communities and hometowns across the nation, come out as one to open our arms to the brave men and women that have served our country as a reminder that we support them. We appreciate what they do or have done for us.
This show of communal support, this gesture, is so important: because, as a spouse of a soldier and a now wounded warrior, I can promise you that we would willingly go through this ordeal all over again in support of my husband’s brothers in arms, and in support of our nation.
Jessica Downing is a Fayetteville, North Carolina native and military spouse. She currently resides in the Florida Panhandle where she teaches Secondary English and is active in her local military community.