Monday, November 11, 2019

The Meaning of Veteran

A veteran is someone who has 'been there, done that, and while there, did it to the best of his or her ability. You won't find this definition in any dictionary, but I've coined it so everybody who reads this blog will have a clear understanding of where I'm coming from.

I was born in 1944 when World War II was winding down. My uncle Tom was stationed in the Phillipines and was finally coming home. Years later, my Baba told me of the huge parades held in Pittsburgh to welcome our boys back from a long and devastating conflict. Uncle Tom hardly ever talked much about the war, but he had pictures stashed away in a cabinet that my brother and I loved viewing. Seeing him in his Army uniform made us so proud, he was our idol for sure. He was a veteran who gladly went to serve his country knowing that he might not come home again like so many of his buddies who gave their very lives so we would be free. I think he carried this pain of loss with him until the day he died.

My dad didn't serve in World War II because his flat feet were considered a disqualification. Some folks thought less of him which caused embarrassment and guilt. But he was a veteran none the less. Dad worked for the USS company in Homestead, PA, He was a quality assurance supervisor, a job he took great pride in and gave it his all every single day. On May 16, 1948, while checking that a 5 ton furnace door was properly installed, it came unhinged and started to fall. My dad ran as fast as he could, but tripped and was crushed from the waist down. He died three days later. At the age of 38, and a veteran of the steel mill, he sacrificed his all.

My brother, Dan, was a veteran of our educational system. For 35 years he taught History and Spanish, first at Munhall High, and later at the newly-formed Steel Valley complex. Although Dan never engaged in battle, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Okinawa for four years.Upon returning, he began his teaching career, able to instill love of country and the notion that when duty called, it was the responsibility of every18-year-old to gladly take up the flag. He believed it was the duty of those physically fit to defend this great land of ours which had provided all of its citizens with so much.

I too am a veteran. While serving the families in Clairton and the North Hills in the Sixties as an elementary school teacher and a nun, I diligently worked to give the children a solid foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic. In those days it was common to have a classroom of 40 youngsters without any help from an aide or coworker. After dinner, I spent time in the wee hours of the night correcting papers, preparing lessons for the next day, and devising ways to reach the needs of every student under my care. When I left the convent, I continued teaching for over 30 years in one capacity or another. I gave all I could to the best of my ability to make sure those who depended upon me to do my job were prepared to do likewise as adults in their chosen careers.

Today we are celebrating the veterans who have served in the military; those who have enlisted, worked, fought, and died for our freedom and those who currently continue to serve this great country of ours to preserve the rights of each and every American. They deserve our gratitude, our respect, and above all, our constant prayers for their safety not only on Veterans Day, but every night we bend a knee in thanks to the Lord above.

But by my definition, we are all veterans because we have been there, done that, and while there, did whatever to the best of our ability. Be proud of your service as well, no matter for how long and in what career field you gave of yourself to the fullest.

Happy Veterans Day! Blessings and Peace to all!