Thanks from a Veteran

Each year, I post this but always tweak it a bit. Please take a look. Thank you.

For Veterans Day, I’d like to thank each and every service member who has ever stepped foot on foreign soil. To keep in line with the original intent of Veterans Day, I’ll even go a step further and thank every service member who has ever had the honor and privilege of wearing the uniform.

Veterans Day is set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military, be it in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service, whereas Memorial Day is a day to honor those who died during battle or as a direct result of injuries sustained during battle.

I am a veteran and am very proud of my service, but the respect I have for those who came before me and my generation is immeasurable.

Basic Training (Aug 1992)

Basic Training (Aug 1992)

The origin of Veterans Day can be traced back to honoring the veterans of WWI. I’m proud to acknowledge that my grandfather, Herbert Lee Fuller, was one of those men who fought so bravely in WWI.

Paw Paw Fuller, sometime during WWI

Paw Paw Fuller, sitting down, sometime around WWI 

Those who served in WWII were truly the cream of the crop of “The Greatest Generation.”

I have great respect and admiration for those who served in the Korean War, which sadly is often referred to as “The Forgotten War.” No war should ever be forgotten.

The veterans of Vietnam deserve our respect, appreciation, and support now more than ever. The way they were treated upon their return from is a sad chapter in our nation’s great history, but there is sufficient time to correct that mistake.

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Lastly, I’ve had the honor of serving with many great warriors who valiantly served during the Gulf War and the current Global War on Terrorism. I can’t possibly name everyone I served with but I think they know how much love and respect I have for each of them.

I touched on each of the major conflicts of the past hundred years so that none of them will be forgotten. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who serve and no one’s service should ever be forgotten.

In 2011, Frank Buckles, the last surviving veteran of WWI passed away. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, WWII veterans are dying at the alarming rate of more than 1,000 a day. Quite simply, these great Americans are responsible for our very way of life. There is still time to go out of your way to pay respect for these immortal heroes. For most, a sincere “thank you” will suffice.

The next time you see a gentleman wearing a WWII, Korean War, or Vietnam War veteran hat, I highly encourage you to approach him and thank him for his service. Furthermore, if it’s a Vietnam veteran, welcome him home. It’ll make him feel good but it’ll do even more for you. I’ve been welcomed home from war on three different occasions. Each time, there was a variety of pomp and circumstance. Sadly, the Vietnam vets failed to receive such adoration.

Today, I spent the morning at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City, Alabama, with friends, family, and heroes of past wars. Unfortunately, many of those same heroes are now alone with few friends and little family, if any. It’s incumbent upon us to see that they are not alone, so I encourage you to visit your local veterans home from time to time. It shouldn’t be a chore to spend a little time with those who helped to provide the freedom you enjoy each and every day.

The most alarming issue facing veterans today is the suicide rate. Presently, a veteran is taking his or her own life approximately every 80 minutes. This rate is completely unacceptable and the identification and prevention of suicide has become a top priority of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Whether or not you support war is irrelevant; you have to support the troops. They serve voluntarily so you or your loved ones don’t have to serve involuntarily. This hasn’t always been the case.

On a personal level, there wasn’t a day that went by on my latest deployment that I didn’t receive a letter, a postcard, an email, or a package from a grateful American. Over the years, the support for the Global War on Terrorism has dwindled; however, the support for the troops has never been higher, so on behalf of each and every service member who has ever had the honor of wearing the uniform, I want to thank each and every one of YOU for your past, present, and future support. We couldn’t do what we do without it.

Thank you.

Jody Fuller is comic, speaker, writer, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Veterans Day: A Day of Celebration

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Last year, I took a character strengths survey for the Army. It is a 240 item, scientifically validated, questionnaire that provides a rank order of an adult’s 24 character strengths.

While the ranking of some of the character strengths left me baffled, the top character strength did not. Topping the list for me was gratitude.

Take your own survey now. You’ll find it interesting.

Gratefulness is November’s character trait for Opelika, a City of Character.

I have so much to be grateful for, but with Veterans Day upon us, I want to focus on our veterans, for whom I give thanks to every day.

Recently, I told a forty something year old friend of mine that had the U.S. not defeated the Axis powers in WWII, we’d all be speaking German. His reply was classic. “Not me. I can’t speak German.”

Last Sunday, I had the honor of attending the birthday party of 90 year old Husky Kirkwood, a Navy pilot during WWII. Not only was it an honor due to his rightful place in The Greatest Generation but also because according to him, it wasn’t a “phonebook crowd.” He didn’t just scroll through the phonebook looking for folks to invite; he only invited select personnel. Like I said, it was an honor.

Husky in his new birthday suit.

Husky in his new birthday suit. I wore a Navy shirt in his honor, which was tough for an Army guy.

This is the P2V5F, one of the planes Husky flew in the Navy.

This is the P2V5F, one of the planes Husky flew in the Navy.

As one can imagine, the “phonebook crowd” drives a lot of Buicks. I believe there were more Buicks at Husky’s house that day, per capita, than anywhere else in America.

Also, as you can imagine, the “phonebook crowd” consisted of many Veterans.

I know there were multiple WWII Veterans in attendance, as well as those from Vietnam. There was at least one from Desert Storm and even a couple of us from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s ironic that I didn’t mention the Korean War, which sadly is referred to as The Forgotten War; however, I didn’t forget about it and neither should you. I assume some of the guys served in Korea but it never came up in conversation. Perhaps they’ve tried to forget and for good reason. War is hell and Korea ranks right up there near the top.

While many people see Veterans Day as a sad day, I do not. I see it as a celebration for all who have served; those for whom deserve our unwavering gratitude.

It shouldn’t be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

I missed out on a well-paying Veterans Day speaking engagement in California this year, because I stood my ground. I told the event planner that I could speak about anything but to expect a few laughs along the way, because Veterans Day shouldn’t be a somber day; it should be a day of celebration. Apparently that was too much for him to handle, but I’m ok with that and that’s what ultimately counts. You got to stand for something.

But for many, the celebration will soon be ending. According to the VA, we are losing 800-1000 WWII veterans each and every day, so the time to show your gratitude is now.

In recent months, many of my friends from around the country have been showering veterans with birthday cards.

My friend from Fairhope told me about her uncle who fought in WWII. He is 91 years old and blind. His wife died 15 years ago and all he has left is my friend and her mom.

As of Monday, he’d received 26 birthday cards and was deeply moved and brought to tears by the love and gratitude sent his way. He feels special knowing that he is not forgetten.

Uncle Bill message

It doesn’t have to be a holiday for you to reach out to veterans.

We are also losing Korean War veterans at an alarming rate.

Vietnam veterans were loathed by many during their era, so the time to sincerely thank them for answering their nation’s call for a very unpopular war is now.

I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom three times, each time coming home to a bigger celebration. Sadly, the guys from Vietnam were spat upon and advised not to wear their uniform upon their return. The time to thank them and welcome them home is now.

I’m not forgetting about my generation of vets, I just ask that you focus on the older ones first. We plan on being around for a while, but if you see a younger veteran who is struggling, please reach out to him or her.

I encourage you to do something special this Veterans Day weekend. Make a phone call or two. Send a card. Drop by to see a friend. Visit your local veterans home. Bake some cookies. Who doesn’t like cookies?

I plan of taking a veteran or two to lunch on Monday. Heck, I might even drive them in style. Does anyone have a Buick I can borrow?

My "grandpa" is a WWII veteran and pinned on my lieutenant bars at Ft. Benning in Jan 2003. He's not really my grandpa but that's what I call him.

My “grandpa” is a WWII veteran and pinned on my lieutenant bars at Ft. Benning in Jan 2003. He’s not really my grandpa but that’s what I call him. He has a Buick.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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