On Veterans Days, we honor the ones who are with us that served and pay respect to that sacrifice. As a husband, father and Marine veteran, it means something a little different to me. When I first transitioned out of the Marines in 2007, being a veteran was really the last thing I wanted to be known for or be recognized for.

For a veteran, serving doesn’t make us special. It’s just a thing we did, and now it’s behind us. But really, we never put it behind us because we are always looking for answers to questions like why my service mattered. Often, we may conclude it didn’t.

That is where I take a different approach. Our time in service mattered because it strengthened us to become better human beings, to have a richer life and be better moms and dads. Veterans carry a lot of experiences with them, some good and some bad. But these are tools in the toolbox of our life for a job we just haven’t found a use for yet.

In a lot of ways, veterans come home but never really come home. The next time you see a veteran, don’t thank them for their service. Instead, tell them “welcome home” because that might be the first time they’ve heard it. Your words might trigger the process for them to start to come home to their families.

Being a veteran to me means creating a life using the tools and experiences my military service gave me and creating a life worthy of the sacrifice of the ones that didn’t come home. It is creating a legacy of family so strong it rivals the dent in the universe. Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “We are here to put a dent in the universe.” I take that to heart each day so that when people walk by, they can say that dent was Ben Killoy’s.

It can be easy to focus on the legacy of our service, but this focus leads to questions like why I lived and others didn’t, and it takes away the power we have as individuals to move our lives forward. In short, they died so that you could go back and be the best human being, mom or dad you can be.

On Veterans Day, I would like to challenge everyone who reads this to see a veteran as an example and inspiration for the kind of life and legacy we want to create—one that is full of adventure, depth, community and family. Create a life worthy of their sacrifice. Create a legacy that reaches well past a veteran’s four-year enlistment and goes generations into the future. This is how we honor veterans on Veterans Day.

Ben Killoy of Milton is host of the Military Veteran Dad Podcast (militaryveterandad.com).

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