Thank a Veteran

November 11 is Veterans Day, a federal holiday set aside to honor all those who have served in the US Military. It also marks the anniversary of the end of World War I, which ended in 1918. In other countries that participated in that war, it’s known as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day.

I was raised in a military family. My stepfather, CPO Bernie L. Earwood (now deceased), served two tours in Vietnam. My bother, Alan, served two tours in the Persian Gulf. My uncles served in Korea, and in WWII. My great-uncles served in WWI, and several of my ancestors fought in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

A few weeks ago, I taught a continuing education class for massage therapists, called Working With Veterans: Strategies and Considerations. This class is the creation of Amy Appel of Wisconsin. She sent it to me last year to get my opinion on it, and I was so blown away by it I asked her permission to teach it. We were blessed to have 5 veterans attend the class…two of them were massage therapists; one was the husband of a massage therapist; my brother happened to be visiting for the weekend from his home in Florida and I invited him, and I also had a veteran, Brian Ebert, who was making his second appearance as a speaker in the class. Brian and one of the other gentlemen present were both injured in the war, and both suffer from PTSD. Brian and his brother joined the service together, and his brother did not make it home. One of the men present said “I didn’t do anything. I never saw combat.” I felt that was wrong and told him so. The fact that he signed up meant he was willing to go if needed. It was an emotional class, and an enlightening one, and I think it had a big effect on everyone present. It certainly has an effect on me, to hear the stories these folks have to tell.

In spite of having put their lives on the line for their country, the VA estimates that there are about 50,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the street on any given night. Other veterans’ organization place that figure as high as 800,000. Due to the transient nature of the homeless population, it’s impossible to get an exact count. Like any of us, veterans need a roof over their head, food to eat, and medical care–the basic necessities of life. Obviously, we’re falling short of the mark in taking care of serving those who have served us.

How can you thank a veteran? Simple. Just walk up and say “thank you for your service.” When I’m in airports, and I see someone in uniform, I shake hands and thank them. If there is a person in uniform behind me in the food court, I pay for their meal (anonymously). I was gratified once a few years ago, in the Chicago airport, when a plane bringing home the troops came through the terminal. I didn’t see them at first, but it got my attention when I heard a couple of people applauding, and then it grew to the point that hundreds of people in the airport stood and applauded as the soldiers went marching by.

The other day, I was waiting for a man to finish his transaction at the ATM at my bank. When I pulled in there was a pickup parked beside me with Marine Corps stickers on it. I watched as he turned to walk towards his vehicle, limping, and saw the Semper Fi tattoo on his arm. I said “thank you for your service, sir.” He came to a dead stop and said “No, ma’am, thank you. That makes it all worth it.” A thank you doesn’t cost anything. It’s free to give.

I’ve owned my massage clinic for 13 years, and every year since we opened, we’ve given free chair massage to veterans. I was speaking to a veteran the other day and told him that I wish we had a lot more veterans come to take advantage of that, and he said “We appreciate it, ma’am, but we don’t want any recognition.” Courage, loyalty, humility…the hallmarks of those who have served.

Soothing Touch is a proud supporter of the Task Force Dagger Foundation, a non-profit organization that gives financial aid to wounded, ill, and injured members of the US Special Operations Command and their families. Donations go directly to those in need.

Thank a veteran, not just today, but any day.