Photo submitted by Amanda Larch
Every Veterans Day there are parades, a few tributes and dedications during football games, sales at every major department and furniture store and movie marathons on cable networks. We may be honoring some vets from our homes at these parades and games, but what about those who do not have homes? Or the ones living in veterans’ homes, like the one in Barboursville? Do we help and care or even acknowledge them the rest of the year?
Each year, my wonderful mother organizes a Veterans Day drive at her work, and each year, she receives less and less donations. Each year, I see a few posts on social media about students writing letters to soldiers overseas. It this all Veterans Day is anymore and all it represents? We take one day a year to reflect on those who have served our country, and after 24 hours we go about our normal lives as if those brave and sometimes broken soldiers make no difference the rest of the year.
Memorial Day we do (or at least we should) visit and decorate the graves of those fallen ones, those taken from us and those who made it out alive and were never the same, but Veterans Day we need to honor and spend time with those still with us. It’s when my mother takes her meager box half full of donations to the veterans’ home in Barboursville, and when I was a child, I would go with her. I knew, even then, it was much more than just a day off from school. My father, both my grandfathers and most of my great uncles have served in the military. In my blood, I carry their bravery, and I am reminded of their sacrifices daily.
“If everyone could just go to a dollar store and buy one item, it would make a difference,” my mom says sadly, and I agree.
And it does not have to be today, this week or even this month, either. In the dead of winter, the full bloom of spring or sunny dog days of summer, veterans need us. We needed their service, and now they need us. Spend time, volunteer, donate supplies, whatever is possible. My mom always tries to buy games and books for them as well. Comfort those who are alive before they become another gravesite decorated only at Memorial Day. We can learn from them, and in turn, we can teach them.
I must admit, I am ashamed that I have not contributed more these past few years to our veterans, but I am eager to change that. I have lost my grandfathers; I can no longer thank them out loud for what they have done for this country and for me. But I can get to know strangers and thank them for their service, and maybe they’ll remind me of my grandfathers. Maybe they’re in need of a visit from their grandchildren.
It doesn’t matter your political stance or affiliations, it doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the wars we have fought; it may not have mattered to these soldiers either, as some had no choice but to go into battle. Others may have willingly joined, not knowing what to expect and not returning home in one piece. What matters is that they feel as honored as they should be. They fought and served, and that is something I cannot say I have ever felt like I have had the courage to do, no matter if it runs through my blood. The West Virginia Veterans Home in Barboursville is not far from Marshall, and your veteran relatives may be even closer than that.
Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]