Veteran’s Day is a day set aside for us to honor our military veterans for their honorable service to our country. Although everyone on our team is important, today, we give special thanks for the ones who have left home to meet our enemies on the field of battle. Veterans made a choice to protect this nation regardless of the cost. Such sacrifice comes with a price: missed milestones, strained relationships, and lost time with loved ones. Although this is tough, the sacrifice often does not end once the battle is over. Many soldiers do not return in the same way they did before deployment. Mental and physical trauma could remain for a lifetime. Many veterans will not talk about this with families or friends who might not understand; it is only when those of us with shared experiences come together, that we share freely with each other. Today we encourage you to continue to keep the connections with your “brothers in arms.” It would mean a lot to most of our fellow comrades if we reach out and just let them know that we are thinking of them or that they are valued.
I personally know about time away from family as well as the experience of conflict. I had 14 combat deployments including six tours in Afghanistan. Today groups of veterans are still helping people escape Afghanistan and I am happy to lead one of those groups. Anyone we can save to live up to our promises is someone who will have a better life. I want to address Afghanistan separately this year because of the decision to leave and the hardship it caused for those that served there.
For everyone who served in Afghanistan and questions whether the people we lost, or your personal sacrifice, have been in vain, let me assure you that you gave your all for the mission. All of us fought for each other and our nation. Along the way, we found so many Afghans who wanted a better way of life, as well as many who bravely fought alongside of us to try to achieve it for their own country. When I first arrived in Afghanistan, there were no schools other than religious madrasas. In the past 20 years, 18,000 schools were activated. A generation of girls became educated, some becoming doctors, and engineers. Regardless of the current decisions or future outcome, your service, sacrifice and dedication impacted the Afghan’s lives while there and make us proud.
Our national security apparatus is like a football organization; we have General Managers, Owners, stadium workers, grass/ground crew, referees, equipment managers, television crews, and a host of other support staff. It takes everyone to make a football game happen, but it is the players on the field that will either win or lose the game. They don’t call the plays, but they give the best chance for each play called by the coaches to be successful. It is the players that get injured, run to victory or cry in defeat. This reminds me of the famous “Man in the Arena” speech by Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We all have a part to play. I am no longer in the arena but I will support the men and women who are. I will give my best, do my best, and sacrifice my time and effort to ensure they are never forgotten - before, during and after times of conflict. As national security professionals, it is our job to ensure we are training, equipping, supporting, and advocating for each military veteran giving them every opportunity to succeed, on and off the battlefield. That should be our pledge today. Happy Veteran’s Day from i3solutions.
VR Tony Thacker
COL (ret) USA