Veterans Day is November 11, the recognized date that we as a nation pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the armed forces. It is a time to honor and express our gratitude to those who have defended our freedoms, protected our way of life, and often sacrificed much for the greater good. It is a day to remember their valor, their dedication and their unwavering commitment. Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and was established on November 11, 1919, to commemorate the end of World War I. This conflict, often referred to as the “war to end all wars,” was a devastating global conflict that changed the course of history. Armistice Day was a day to remember those who had served and the profound importance of peace. In 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day, reflecting a broader recognition of all veterans, not just those of World War I. It now serves as a day to honor and thank all American veterans for their service.
I am not a veteran. Despite living with a veteran for 40 years, I am sometimes jarringly reminded that I do not fully understand how his service affected him, how his lived experiences differ from my own. Would we have a more consistent and visible compassion for our veterans if we were more aware of those experiences? Maybe. Helping people grow and learn are some of the things public libraries do best, so let’s take a look at some books written by veterans and people working with veterans. Let’s become more aware of their stories.
Johnny Joey Jones wrote “Unbroken Bonds of Battle” as a tribute to the men you meet in its pages. A Marine Corps veteran wounded in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of both legs, Jones has dedicated himself to improving the lives of all veterans and their families. This book contains the personal stories of 10 veterans, usually from their formative years through their years of service and then into the lives they have built since. You will read the unfiltered and authentic conversations of warriors who came home and of the supportive networks of brothers and sisters in arms. Jones shares many stories about the people he has met while serving at veteran support organizations. Additionally, he is a military analyst for Fox News media platforms and hosts Fox Nation Outdoors.
“Walking Towards Peace: Veterans Healing on America’s Trails” is written by Cindy Ross, a non-veteran who has written extensively about the healing power of long-trail hiking. A chance hosting and fireside conversation with a group of veterans walking the Appalachian Trail to heal led to Ross and her husband opening River House PA, hosting hikes and campfires and canoe trips in partnership with the nearby Veterans Administration facility. In her own words “the heroes profiled throughout this book have shown tremendous courage in opening up and sharing their personal stories.” You will meet 17 people whose stories share of their experiences post-deployment and, who have wrestled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through a process called ecotherapy, they have found new tools to deal with issues that have resulted from combat experiences: survivor’s guilt, nightmares, lack of trust, depression, hypervigilance, thoughts of suicide and lack of purpose. Ecotherapy is a formal type of therapeutic treatment that involves doing outdoor activities in nature. Ross writes for a variety of publications, including Stars Stripes, Military Times, Yoga Times and Appalachian Trail Journeys and has published several books about the experience of long-trail hiking.
Another soldier who shares her own experience, hoping to be an inspiration to others, is Senator Tammy Duckworth in her biography “Every Day is a Gift.” As in most biographies, you will read about her childhood and her days becoming an Air Force helicopter pilot. There are only nine pages dedicated to the RPG that downed her helicopter and to the actions of her crew to pull everyone to safety. But you will join her in the subsequent struggle to survive the pain and to achieve her recovery as she is supported by other warriors, including double-amputee Lieutenant Colonel Andres Lourake. Lourake confirmed that she too could aspire to return to the cockpit. In her own words “There was no way… I was going to let (someone) who’d gotten lucky with an RPG determine my fate. However much pain I’d have to endure, and however long it took, I was determined to get back into the cockpit of a Black Hawk.”
I feel that it is important to hear people’s own words, to give them the grace of telling their own stories in their own way in their own time. This is just a small sampling of veteran stories you can find at your library. There are over 400 other items in our catalog if you would like to explore further. Veteran’s Day is a day to pause and reflect on the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe to our veterans. It’s a day to look beyond political divisions and recognize that the men and women who have served in the armed forces have all shared a common commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy.
Moreover, we should view Veterans Day as a call to action. We must remember that many veterans still face challenges after their service, from physical and mental health issues to difficulties finding employment. It’s a day to commit to supporting organizations and initiatives that provide assistance and resources to veterans who need it. As we observe this day, let us remember that honoring our veterans is not limited to a single day; it is a responsibility that we should carry with us year-round. By doing so, we ensure that the legacy of our veterans endures and that their sacrifices are never forgotten.