Veterans Day means something special to those who have served. The Oath of Enlistment hangs on my home office wall next to medals, achievements and other accomplishments I’ve earned throughout my career.
The oath is different – it’s not an achievement or accomplishment, but a reminder that I had a responsibility as a soldier to defend the Constitution of the United States. For me now, it means that I have responsibilities and an obligation as a Veteran.
Army Veteran James W. Huckfeldt Jr.
Veterans Day is a celebration when I grill steaks and sit around the fire pit telling stories about my time in the Army. Celebrating Veterans Day is important, as it shows the next generation how we should treat those who served and how to indulge in the festivities to honor those who didn’t come home.
It’s a time for reflection and, as I’ve dedicated my professional life to helping my brothers and sisters receive the most from their benefits of service, it’s also a silent affirmation that more needs to be done.
I usually receive countless, “Thank you for your service” comments from family, friends and those in my community, as well as across the country. I know they mean well. It takes a special person to sign up for something others consider extreme, dangerous and unknown for years of your life.
But I discovered who I was by facing those challenges. I matured and learned how to lead. I traveled the world and went to college as a result. I loved my time in uniform and the worst day of my service was when I took off the uniform for the last time.
All I ever wanted to be was a soldier. For nine awesome years, I lived my dream. It always feels like I should be the one thanking those thanking me.
“All I ever wanted to be was a Soldier, and I lived my dream.”
Celebration of who I became after reciting the oath
Veterans Day also is an opportunity to share the benefits of service with our kids. Those include learning a trade, free college tuition while serving, the G.I. Bill, VA Home Loan Guaranty, and countless other perks for enlisting for a few honorable years.
I see young men and women accruing thousands of dollars in student debt to finance a college education while I’m halfway through my graduate degree and my tuition is paid in full. One of our responsibilities is to show the next generation that serving is much more than “going to war” and “getting screamed at by a drill sergeant.”
Selfishly, I’ll sit outside on Veterans Day – my day – with a smirk and an adult beverage, reminiscing about my contributions to our awesome country and the world while watching the sun set over a gorgeous Georgian longleaf pine.
Veterans Day is the celebration of who I became after raising my right hand and reciting the oath that now hangs on my wall. I believe the same is the case for most Veterans.