There are several Veterans in my family who are no longer with us. And, I am very sad that I did not take the time to properly express my gratitude when they were still alive.
I remember them often, and hope that they somehow lived their lives knowing how critical their military service was to the freedoms and liberties we continue to enjoy in this country.
One of these Veterans was my first husband, Bob Perkins, aka, Perk. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and Bob left college to enlist, like his father, Homer, had done. There was a high probability that he would have been drafted, so he decided to be proactive. And, it seemed right to enlist then, as he was not quite sure where he wanted to go with his career after college. Four years in the Air Force might help him choose a direction for his life, and he figured he would have a good chance of actually returning.
Bob spent his last year of service in Vietnam. This was during a time when our country had grown weary of the war, and it was not uncommon for young people to be extremely disrespectful toward returning soldiers. There were certainly no parades or celebrations for these returning troops. They were pretty much on their own as they tried to make sense of things and put their lives back on track.
Like many other returning Vets, Bob didn't talk much about his experience in Vietnam. He downplayed it, and as far as I knew, he had a fairly non-eventful tour. Back to college and normal life, Bob just tried to get through school and into his new career in a then new field, Parks & Recreation.
I do not ever remember explicitly thanking Bob for his service. It did not occur to me to do so, at the time. We were just too busy struggling to make ends meet and get him through school. It also did not occur to me that Bob's tour in Vietnam might have been a little more eventful than he led me to believe. Not until years later did I begin to wonder.
Bob and I divorced a few years after he returned from Vietnam. I don't blame the war for that, but I do wish that I had been a little better equipped to help him deal with the challenges of re-entry into civilian life.
Bob passed away in 2009 in a Veteran's hospital from a form of cancer that was linked to Agent Orange, a deadly de-forestation chemical widely used in Vietnam.
I know Bob was proud to serve his Country, even in a war that many Americans did not support. And, I am proud of his service. I am not proud that I forgot to tell him that.
And now, for your coaching challenge, should you choose to accept it.
Identify all the living Veterans you know. Take a moment and thank them for their sacrifices and service. Identify all those Veterans in your life, who have passed on. Take a moment to thank God for their sacrifices and service. It's never too late to be grateful.