Veterans—Why Children Still Need You

by Sally Matheny    

Surely they served with our children in mind.
Those who have served in our Armed Forces, during times of peace and times of war, have surely done so with our children in mind.

From the Revolutionary War to the latest war on terrorism, our service members have fought to protect our freedom and way of life.    
Many service members hoped their service would provide a better life for the next generation.

Not only do I want to express my appreciation, I also want to remind veterans why our children still need you.    

In November 2014, my family attended our first Veterans Day Parade. A chilly breeze blew the little, American flags we brought. Alternating the hand in the coat pocket with the hand holding the flag, we tried to stay warm.

When the parade finally began I quickly realized I did not come prepared.

It wasn't the cold air that jolted me. It was the row upon row of fresh-faced students of the JROTC. Representing various branches of the armed services, they marched with pride. 

I’ve never seen so many at one time. Their presence made me think this could be the next generation to defend our country and the freedom of our children.

This could be our next generation of freedom fighters.

Then, I noticed the mentors marching beside their students. They are retired veterans of the military. 
Veterans, whether you are mentoring cadets, your grandchildren, or the neighbors down the street--America's young people need you.

Thank you, veterans, for investing your time and skills into the next generation. Our teens need mentors who model honor and integrity. For many youths, you are the only ones who care to teach them about self-discipline, hard work, and perseverance.  

After the JROTC marched by, there came an even bigger surprise. It wasn’t the awesome cars or the cool motorcycles the veterans were driving. 

The faces of the veterans amazed me.

Their eyes gleamed with pride—not a pride in themselves—but in their country. 

Some of the veterans’ grins reminded me of how a dad grins the first time he watches his child ride a bike. Eyes glistened as they saw their fellow Americans lining the streets, waving flags.

Their expressions seemed to convey this thought: They get it. They love their country and freedom as much as we do. They get it. 
The veterans were shouting, "Thank you for coming!"
Then, the veterans went beyond their call of duty.

With outstretched hands, they shouted to the crowd.

Thank you for coming!
Thank you! Thank you!

My throat tightened. They were thanking us

We, who quite often take our freedoms for granted and who can’t possibly have a full understanding of the sacrifices many have endured on our behalf.

I could not let them pass by without shouting a thank you to them, but the lump in my throat blocked all sound. All I could manage was to mouth the words, thank you. I looked at my husband. His words were trapped as well. With tears in his eyes, he nodded his appreciation towards the veterans.

Eventually, we found our voices and shouted our appreciation as we held our flags high. 

Some veterans seem uncomfortable with all the
Some veterans seemed uncomfortable with all the hoop-lah. Nonetheless, they came and took their place in the parade. 

Perhaps, some did so only to represent the veterans they knew who gave everything for their country.


One soldier, riding on a float, would not allow any veteran he saw standing on the sidelines to go unrecognized. Whenever he spotted a veteran's cap among the spectators on the street, he stood up on the float and saluted them. He didn't maintain a serious facial expression. It was as if he couldn't contain his joy and a broad smile accompanied his salute.

After the parade, our son, who was just beginning to understand the value of freedom and the cost of protecting it, declared it was "one of the best days, ever." 

Usually he only says that after his birthday or a day at a theme park. 

My family may never fully grasp what veterans have sacrificed for us. But we get it. We appreciate you and your service.

The veteran at the back saluted veterans lining the street.

The parade had a good turn-out of folks and yet, if people really knew what some of the veterans have endured, and some still suffer with today, I think well-wishers would have flooded the streets.

I’m blessed to know several veterans. The ones I know are humble and quiet about their service in the Armed Forces.

I heard a veteran say once, “I wasn’t trying to be brave. I was trying to survive.” Many others state, "I was only doing my job."

I hear what you’re saying, but I still think all of those who answered the call to military duty were/are brave.

In wartime or peacetime, you had to be brave to go into the unknown, understanding that everything could change in an instant.     

Veterans, people needed you at the time you served. We still need you. Our children need you.

Let me tell you why.

To many students, history may be a bunch of facts and dates memorized for a test and nothing more.

You make history come alive. Your presence evokes thoughts of those who served in the past. You show students that the names in their history books (and so many more who are not recognized in a book) are not just names. They were real people—someone’s son, husband, or dad.

Some endured frightening situations so our children wouldn't have to.

When you speak to a class, or volunteer at an event, our children see people serving others. 

They hear about men and women, not desiring to, but willing to die for a just cause. They learn of service members sacrificing the comforts of home so America’s children have the freedom to enjoy those comforts. 

They listen to your stories of those who endured frightening and strenuous ordeals so today's children would not have to. Your words inspire them to learn how to work together and stand up to bullies.

When you share, you present an opportunity for youth to understand how the military strives to bring peace in the midst of chaos.

Perhaps the knowledge our youth gain from you, will promote more peaceful living in the future.

Honorable veterans, you set an example of respect for your country, a love for life, and a passion for liberty.

Our children need you.

We all need you.

Thank you for what you did then and what you do today.

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