By Danielle DeSimone
Each year, on November 11, we as a nation take a moment to honor the millions of service members who have served in our Armed Forces. First observed in 1919 as “Armistice Day,” the Veterans Day of today is an opportunity to show veterans gratitude for the immense sacrifices they have made throughout their service. Sometimes, the easiest way to do so is by asking about their time in the military, or simply thanking them for their service.
Too often, the stories of our veterans and the lengths to which they went to defend our country are forgotten. In honor of this Veterans Day, here are four stories of veterans’ experiences of their time in the military:
1. A World War II Veteran Recalls the Beaches of D-Day
Robert Fischman was only 18 years old when he boarded the USS Texas, a Navy battleship, and entered the fray of D-Day on June 6, 1944. Despite his young age, Fischman was focused that day, providing cover for American soldiers scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc and rescuing U.S. Rangers in the choppy waters.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” Fischman, now 95 years old, said. “I only knew I had to do what I had to do.”
2. A Veteran Finds a Path After Service
Sometimes, the transition from active duty to veteran can be a challenging one for our service members, both personally and professionally. When service members leave the military, they often struggle to translate their military experiences onto a civilian resume or find places of employment that match their skill set.
“People know what they generally see in the movies,” Former Army Lt. Col. Roger Miranda said. “Unless they know somebody personally who has actually served in the military, the only perception that civilians have of people in the military are the stereotypes they see on the big screen.”
Luckily, Miranda was able to tap into career-building resources through the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program to help guide him to professional success.
3. A Couple’s Success is Rooted in Their Understanding of Military Life
When Navy Lt. Julie Orlandi was deployed for the first time, her husband Joshua Johnson wasn’t overwhelmed by the prospect of months spent apart from his wife – he himself is a veteran and was well-versed in the realities of deployment.
The couple credited Johnson’s prior service in the Marine Corps as the reason why their time spent apart on deployment did not affect them nearly as much as many other couples.
“What I’ve kind of learned, having been on both sides of the relationship, is that while the service member works a lot … they’re the one that’s away in a foreign land,” Orlandi said. “You [as the service member] have to appreciate … what the person that stays back home is going through.”
4. Veterans’ Experiences Lead Them to Give Back to Today’s Military
For many veterans, their life of service inspires them to give back to the men and women in uniform serving today. They alone can fully understand the strain, sacrifices and challenges of military life, which is why veterans are such incredible USO volunteers.
Whether it’s World War II veteran Dean Quigley painstakingly ensuring that USO Northwest’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Center has all the perfect condiments for the center’s hot dog bar, or Vietnam veteran Bernie Smith outfitting traveling service members with care packages and postcards – all veteran volunteers at the USO understand what it’s like to be far from home and loved ones.
“I do it just to keep the families together,” Smith said in a 2013 interview, explaining why he hands out blank postcards, decorated with his original paintings and pre-stamped, to use. “I used to send my mom and my aunt postcards from around the world. Do you know when they died, they had every one of those post cards? They were tied with a ribbon around them.”
These veterans can empathize with the unique challenges our troops face, and by giving back as USO volunteers, veterans can make a lasting impact on the next generation of service members.
-This story was originally published on USO.org in 2020. It has been updated in 2021.
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