Appreciate the military during the month of May

Friday, May 7, 2021

By DENNIS ANDERSON Special to the Valley Press May 5, 2021

May is Military Appreciation Month and it comes with a presidential proclamation about gratitude for service of US Armed Forces. If you are a veteran, be sure to check out year around discounts, as published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs:

If there is a month for it, May ranks high on the list. At the end of the month, Memorial Day ushers in the hope of summer and sweeps us toward the Fourth of July holiday.

Memorial Day distinguishes itself from Veterans Day because it is the holiday when the ones who are paying attention honor the fallen and remember the veterans in our families who are gone from us now.

May is also a month for recognition because of the days that fall within it, like Armed Forces Day and Military Spouses Appreciation Day, which happens to fall on Friday, a couple days before Mother’s Day.

That one’s a day worth marking — particularly for all the Blue Star and Gold Star mothers.

We have a very active Blue Star Mothers chapter in the Antelope Valley. They are the parents of active service men and women.

The Gold Star parents are in the club no one wants to belong to — having lost a son or daughter in active service.

Military spouses are the ones, regardless of gender, who are expected to keep it all together when the active service member is away — and away can simply mean deployment and separation, which is trying enough.

Or it can mean the active service member is fighting for their lives and buddies and our nation’s vital interests, somewhere in our reach of global commitments.

The spouses deserve a day because they manage the kids, repairs, bills and the sheer anxiety and dread of having an intimate partner somewhere else in the world, often enough in some kind of mortal jeopardy.

Too often, when the active service spouse returns, all the family rhythms are disrupted and new ways of living and managing family have to be learned.

During the Vietnam War, too many of the 2.7 million Americans who served in Vietnam were not feeling the love when they returned home.

In the years after 9/11, Americans pushed the pendulum in the other direction and the military and veterans have gotten a lot of gratitude.

Some of it takes the form of “thank you for your service,” sometimes a platitude, but most often, I think, actual sentiment.

And we have added up the days, the veteran and troop discounts and lots of recognition at events. On balance, that is a lot better than the cold shoulder a lot of Vietnam War veterans experienced.

Being in the military doesn’t mean that you are a hero or that you are a plaster saint of some sort.

What it means is that at some point in your life, if you answered the draft of bygone years, or if you volunteered, you swore an oath that made you available for service to country that could include everything — nights and weekends, up to, and including, your life.

Whether you joined for love of country, for the benefits or for college tuition, that is what the oath means. And sometimes it means that you will give service that could include life or limb.

My single hitch of service a long time ago included friends who gave one or the other in service and in more than 40 years of covering the military, the names of the dead and the maimed continue to grow.

Being in the military involves the same sets of social issues that life “outside” includes.

In the ranks, members of the armed forces have to contend with racism, extremism, drug and alcohol use, sexual harassment and assault, depression and anxiety and all the ills that befall society in general.

There is also intense pride, achievement and a sense of accomplishment and making a contribution to the nation’s safety and well-being.

With that in mind, along with the contributions of others to a great nation, deserving of our love and efforts to improve, I am ready to appreciate the military.

It’s been with us since before 1776, delivered the world from evil and totalitarianism and keeps working while we sleep to keep us safe.

Dennis Anderson is a licensed clinical social worker at High Desert Medical Group. An Army veteran, he deployed with local National Guard troops after 9/11 to cover the Iraq War for the Antelope Valley Press. He specializes in veterans and community health issues and initiatives.