The first time someone thanked me for my service on Veterans Day, I didn’t know what to say. A deluge of responses filled my mind until one finally rose to the surface: “Thank you for your support.” I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on whether this was the most appropriate way to articulate how I truly feel when thanked for my service. After years of pushing my limits as a member of the armed forces, I’ve reached a conclusion. Don’t thank me just because it’s Veterans Day.

I grew up in a military family, moving between states and foreign countries throughout my childhood and adolescence, which essentially developed me into the person I am today. This even led to my own service in the armed forces, so my patriotism to this nation is primo. As a consequence of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, my father deployed to the Middle East four separate times. How bizarre is it my sister and I have both deployed to the same conflict-ridden countries our father experienced over 15 years ago?

Veterans’ participation in America’s longest war has now become generational, which has led to a desensitized citizenship. Citizens are either no longer informed about U.S.’s military involvements or choose to ignore them. The impacts of war on veterans are out of sight and mind. The blind assumption of the invisible protectors of liberty and freedom has become the mainstream thought associated with members of the armed forces. Assuming that someone bears the load of national defense all for a “thank you” is my main concern. Supporting the troops is not as simple as saying, “thank you.”

Although Veterans Day has passed, it’s not too late to sincerely thank a veteran for their service. We can do so with our actions; they speak louder than words. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) reported that approximately 37,800 veterans were homeless in 2018. Texas Veterans comprise 5.5% of this number. If we are truly thankful for the service of these veterans, then these numbers don’t reflect our sincerity. No veteran of a foreign war should ever be without food, clothes or shelter.

Bexar County has a variety of veteran outreach organizations that provide support for veterans in our local community and always need help. The Crosspoint-Veterans Program provides residential rehabilitation and life skills training to ensure veterans are able to find a home and maintain a resident status. Additionally, Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital currently has 88,000 veterans enrolled in the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System. These veterans have been involved in every major conflict in U.S. history, and some spend their days at the hospital talking with anyone who cares to visit. Go talk to a veteran; all of these organizations accept volunteers. Understand the implications of what it takes to go to a foreign country and defend the freedoms we too often take for granted. These are some ways you can sincerely thank a veteran for their service.

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