Reflections on Veterans Day - A Grateful Heart For Those Doing What Most of Us are Not Willing To Do
By: Erika Fehernbach Prell
I recently visited the World War II Museum in New Orleans while there on a kid-free vacation with my husband and two of our besties. I have been to several such museums but this one was truly remarkable. Instead of the typical facts and artifacts, this museum was an experience; you started by boarding a train where you were assigned a real life person to follow through the war. You could switch to a different one, if you chose to; I swapped my paratrooper for an Army nurse. Being a nurse myself, I was curious what she went through during the war.
At different stops in the museum, you logged your dog tag in to see what your person was experiencing. Added to this, there were many true stories of the war experience, ranging from every day life to acts of heroism in the forms of written letters, written stories, actual footage from the war, and interviews of veterans. Following a soldier’s journey as if it was your own combined with these other true life moments made for a very powerful and moving experience.
During this experience, my mind naturally drifted to the veterans that I know-my grandfather and his brothers who all served in WWII, including my great uncle who remains missing in action when his airplane was shot down over France, my uncle who served in the Navy during Vietnam, my husband’s college buddy who served in Afghanistan, and finally brother, Tim, who is currently a Navy officer. There is one consistent theme among these generations of servicemen. In the name of defending the freedom and choice of current and generations to come, they were willing to do what many of us are not willing to do. They put their futures on hold and their lives at risk to defend the ideals of this country and stand up against oppressors that jeopardize all that many of us take for granted-freedom of choice. Even in relatively peaceful times, as compared to a war-ravaged Europe during World War II, servicemen and women give up so much.
Let’s take a quick walk in my brother’s shoes during one one of his tours. When he joined the Navy ROTC in college, he earned college tuition in exchange for 5 years of service, which was to include 2 overseas tours. To an 18 year old, I am sure this seemed like a no brainer; I am sure it was appealing on many levels, here you had a career with great financial incentives and adventure. What my brother did not anticipate, I am sure, is where is life would be when his second tour came about.
He was fortunate to get an overseas tour that was not in a war zone; this was more like a civilian-type position, but, since it was overseas for an extended time, it would count as his second tour. This should have been met with equal relief and excitement, except he was engaged. My brother and now sister-in-law changed their plans and got married sooner than planned, and a few weeks after their wedding, Tim was off to Japan for 18 months. I don’t want you to miss that. Imagine that you are a newlywed. Instead of starting your life together like you always dreamed, two weeks after your wedding, you are sent halfway across the world for a year and a half! I can’t even imagine.
The original plan was for my sister-in-law to join my brother over in Japan, however, remember that huge tsunami that hit Japan a few years ago? Yeah, that’s when my brother was there; his routine stateside job turned into a huge humanitarian effort and plans for my sister-in-law to join him were impossible. My brother has had two other tours since that time, fortunately, none have been as long. But, as life progresses, he has to leave not only his wife, who is a full time nursing student and works part time, but also his two young sons.
This is not a unique scenario to our servicemen and women. Even in times of peace, our servicemen and women are required to leave their families and friends, their lives, to do their jobs. And, between deployments, many have to move from base to base, starting over each time in a new city every few years, uprooting themselves and their families and starting over from scratch. And, this isn’t even taking into consideration what these amazing individuals deal with during an active war.
It can be easy to gloss over Veterans Day, especially when an active war is, gratefully, not going on. Our past and current servicemen and women deserve so much more than just this day; they deserve our respect and gratitude for keeping watch and upholding our freedom of choice. They are doing what many of us will not, and for that, I humbly thank you all for your service and dedication!
When you see a veteran, give a smile and simply say, “thank you for your service”. Not just on Veterans Day, but every day that you see them proudly sporting the hats and emblems of their service to this country, their countrymen, and future generations to come.
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.