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Reynolds: Veterans Day

Taking a moment to think about an important day that gets lost in the blur of the holiday season.

As soon as the first leaf floats gently to the ground it sets in motion a frantic scramble to get ready for “the holidays.”

It’s like the almost non-existent physical impact of that leaf touching the ground is as powerful as a meteor landing. That light, swirling, twirling little leaf lands with a cosmic “thud” and alerts everybody (the children first) that “the holidays” are coming!

Although we can’t see it happening, the ground has begun to violently shake beneath us. The seismic rumble unsettles inventory in just about every store, and somehow Halloween merchandise lands on shelves by mid-August. By the end of September, Halloween has flourished around us, filling every inch available, but the rumbling continues, and shockingly amongst the grinning jack-o lanterns, a Christmas tree will sprout up! 

This fast-forward through the months, and panic to create the match set of the holiday your child is being force-fed through television advertising, can suck some the enjoyment out of the season. 

Did you get the right candy?  Why are the only options for your nine-year-old daughter “naughty witch” or “dead zombie (naughty) cheerleader?” 

Halloween can be tricky. The sheer marketing of the holiday has increased by approximately 100,000 percent since my childhood. Costumes have become much more elaborate, and expensive (and for some unknown reason naughty and violent).  But what remains the same is that it is a “kid-run” holiday. Based in nothing but the exploitation of adults for candy, it is hard to infuse real “meaning” into this seasonal phenomenon.

Buy a $50 costume to wear for one night. Hit up your neighbors (and strangers, which is usually frowned upon by the way…) for candy.  Vandalize the home of adults who don’t comply… It really is quite terrible.

And for those of us who have double duty as teachers, we can all attest to the fact that the days leading up to, and immediately following Halloween are some of the most challenging of the school year.

The influx of sugar in all its forms. The permission to become criminals for an evening.  Carte blanche to dress like a stripper or ax murderer or a combination of the two. Staying up and out late on a school night… it all just adds up to a mess.

Once we adults get through the unreasonable Halloween holiday, we start to panic about “the big ones.” We start to think about guests, and presents, and whether or not our dining room table is big enough (even when it is the same table that fit everybody last year).

Still feeling the sting of spending entirely too much money, time and energy on Halloween, we wonder how we can refocus ourselves and our families toward a more meaningful season. 

And lost in all of this madness is the holiday that we should turn our focus towards.

Veterans Day.

I am generations removed from having a family member in the military. My grandparents met when they were both officers in the Army. Actually three out of four of my grandparents were in the military. My grandfather, Ed Rau, was part of the brigade that liberated the Concentration Camp, Dachau.

Growing up, I knew I should be proud of them. I knew that what they did was a huge sacrifice, and very brave.  But I clearly didn’t understand. I was so far removed from war, and danger, and understanding that type of sacrifice and bravery. 

My family sprung from brave soldiers, but I can’t speak to the experience of a military family.  And I don’t even want to imagine it …

I feel that it would be disrespectful, but I also feel that I am not entirely strong enough.

Things I do know are that I like to have my husband come home every night after work. I like to share my day, our home, and our lives together. I think about how exhausted I am at the end of some days, and how relieved I am to have him walk through the door.  I know that he is my best friend, my favorite person, and I am very blessed that he is living and working in a relatively safe part of the world. 

I know how much I love my kids. I break out in a cold sweat when I think of them riding their bikes without a helmet, so I know how grateful I am that this is a safe place.  I see them, and talk to them, and hug and kiss them any time I want. 

Last night my house was full of brothers and sisters-in-law, and multiple nieces and nephews. I’ll see my sisters this morning for brunch. Darrin and I see our siblings and their kids all the time actually. They are my best friends. I am so very lucky that our siblings are close by, and that our kids get to grow up together. We will have a full, festive and busy holiday season together.

All of these adults in my life, my husband and I included, work hard. We are paid fairly. It is a difficult economic climate for millions, but we are in the fortunate crowd of people who have jobs and salaries that enable us to adequately support out families. 

We are very blessed to be living in this prosperous, and safe corner of the world.

When I think about the people who choose to be in the military to protect this safe, clean, prosperous bubble in which I live, I have no idea how to adequately thank them. 

When I try imagine for a moment what my life would be like if my husband, or child, or sibling, or parent were thousands of miles from home living and working in a dangerous place, I can’t do it for long. When I try to imagine putting my own life on the line, or waiting while a loved one was putting their life on the line, I can’t do it. I am literally sickened to know that many military familes also struggle financially. It seems too disrespectful to be a reality – but it is.

So, my most heartfelt gratitude, and respect goes out to those of you who are brave enough to live it. ...

And as we pack up our Halloween boxes, and prepare for the next round of Holiday Hoopla, we should take a moment to consider what we can do to help, thank, and support our veterans and our active members of the armed forces.

It is a challenging economic climate, and many of us are struggling to meet the needs of our own families. There are small, and relatively inexpensive ways to let our soldiers and their families know that we appreciate their sacrifice.

Military Families and Veteran Services of America is a great website that has several options for people who would like to donate.  This site can connect you to multiple charity options. There is a link for a cash donation, but options also include specific holiday help like buying gifts for children, and even sending Christmas trees to military families who could not afford one.

There's also the Military Family Coupon Project. This is a great way to help military families for folks who are unable to make a cash donation. Military commissaries will accept expired manufacturers coupons for up to six months after the expiration date.  The Military Coupon Project collects and distributes coupons to military families in need.

You can also contact Veterans Services at the Medfield Town Hall to see if there is a specific, local need you could support.

At the very least, on this Veterans Day, take a look at your family. Look around you, and realize that millions of people have died so we can live this lovely life.  Maybe try to convince your family to walk up to Vine Lake Cemetery and pay their respects. Next time you are walking Main Street, take a moment at Baxter Park and look at all the Medfield residents honored through the varous war monuments. Read their names. Spend five minutes thinking about those soldiers and their spouses, and parents, and kids, and remember their sacrifice.

Do something. For one day stop thinking about pie and wrapping paper, and think about people. People who you never will meet that are putting their life on the line for you.

To all Medfield families who are serving or are missing somebody who is serving in the Armed Forces, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is my sincerest hope, that you all come home, safe and sound, and soon.

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