Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Remember veterans, but don’t forget their families

By Eric F. Buller, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, (Retired)

As a Veteran, I am very appreciative of the thanks I receive for my service, very often from strangers, and always well-intentioned. I am very proud of my service and Veteran's Day provides a perfect opportunity for my own personal reflection as well as an opportunity to recognize and remember those that served before, with and beyond me. In our country, military service is viewed as among the most noble, appreciated and respected professions. Countless commercials, videos and articles detail our collective appreciation for brave warriors that voluntarily operate in harms way on a daily basis. We may debate fiercely on whether military action is necessary or appropriate, but we never debate the courage and heroism exhibited by our fellow citizen-soldiers. With that, we all will likely thank a Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine on Tuesday. For that, I thank you.

My own personal reflection on Veteran's Day, however, shifts in a different direction. My father served for over 28 years in the Air Force. My older brother still serves in the Navy, approaching 30 years of service. My younger brother just retired from a distinguished career in the Air Force. I served twenty years in the Army. But more significant and meaningful to me is the passing of my mother on Nov. 11, 2008 - Veteran's Day. My mother raised a family of service members and often did so as the lone parent while Dad was deployed to combat or stationed abroad on a remote assignment. My mother bore the brunt of sleepless nights while her sons were, themselves, deployed into combat. My father never lost sleep over our deployments; he understood, had been there and knew the dangers and long ago resolved himself to them. Not so for my mother, who waited daily for a phone call letting her know we were still alive and well. My mother is who I think about on Veteran's Day.

My wife is also who I think about on Veteran's Day. She filled the same critical role that my mother led for many years, raising our daughters while I was deployed, away for training or working late every night for months at a time. My family lived in a "new normal" where it was expected that I would be gone for three to 18 months with little notice or time to prepare. It was her patience and adaptability that made my reintegration back into the family upon redeployment possible - allowing me to step in and parent when she had long ago figured out to handle it herself. I think about my sister who married into the Air Force and raised two daughters under similar conditions. I think about my sister in-law who has raised two sons with my brother deployed more frequently than either of his service siblings. And always, I think about Mom, on Veteran's Day - a day that celebrates her life and death - and she never put on a uniform.

Thank a Veteran - it is the right thing to do. But, more importantly, make sure you thank a Veteran's family. They bear scars that are not as visible but just as deep. They bear badges of honor that are not worn on a chest or around a neck, but are just as admirable. Thank the family. Thanks, Sharon, Alex and Jessica. Thanks, Mom.