Jacey Eckhart: I Love Veterans

Veterans Salute

All the men I love best are veterans -- my husband, my father, my brothers, even my brothers-in-law all served. Now that my son has joined the Army, it is easy for me to say I like veterans.

But I don’t just like my own veterans. I find that I have this funny little warm spot for all veterans. It is kind of the same feeling expressed by retired Vice Adm. Harold M. Koenig in his famous blackshoe essay about how he just likes the Navy.

This is my version:

I like veterans. I like new veterans. I like the way they get out of the military and start to grow their hair. I like the way hair that is even a fraction of an inch longer than it used to be makes them feel like they are wearing a fuzzy hat in the house.

I like old veterans. I like the way they wear the blue and gold caps from past commands when they tour the Capitol. I like the way those caps end up on the back ledge of their cars, peering out at the rearview.

I like veterans in the office. I like the way veterans have trouble doing things at a civilian pace at first. I like the way they want to speed up and power through and get things done in as little time as possible. I like the way they miss doing things the military way.

I like veterans on the job. I like the way my furnace guy and my hot water guy were both in the Navy. I like the way my little heat problems are a snap compared to their time serving on amphibious ships. I like the way they solve my heat problems the first time around.

I like veterans at home. I like the way their “I Love Me” wall slowly gets dusty and looks worn and doesn’t quite go back up on the wall after the next paint job. I like the way that later those same items go back up on the wall years later, as if their meaning is renewed.

I like veterans on a military golf course. I like the way they grumble when the active duty are on the course in the middle of the week and the way they can’t help saying, “Back in my day …”

I like the families of veterans. I like the way that they urge veterans to wear their uniform to the wedding. I like how quickly words spring to their lips like, “My mom served” or “My dad holds up the National Guard in Missouri all by himself.” I like how proud they are of you still.

Most of all, I think I like the way being a veteran stays with people. Giving the years of your youth to the service of your country forms you, shapes you, alters you. It is the trial by fire. It is being burnished until you glow.

I’m just glad to be one of those lucky people to stand with you veterans all your lives, liking you for the way you really are.

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Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs at Military.com and a military sociologist.  Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??

Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times.  Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.  

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