Growing up in South Jersey, I was fortunate enough to have an incredibly loving family with deep morals and values committed to service. So, at the age of 17 I left home. Armed with an irrational sense of optimism, I did the only logical thing—I entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. I embarked on the journey of my life, committed to a lifetime of service to my family, my friends, and my country. While serving in Infantry and Special Forces units, I deployed to combat multiple times and lived the dream of any warrior as I was surrounded by some of the greatest patriots and people I have met, my brothers and sisters in arms from both America and our allies. We experienced immense highs and some terrible lows, but throughout, we served with honor and pride. Together, we fought for each other and to free the oppressed, those who couldn’t fight for themselves. We served to advance the values of freedom around the world, to allow people to simply have a better life. And while many of my friends are on patrol right now, keeping me, my wife, and our two little girls safe, I was honorably discharged from the United States Army on October 1st.
In an age where active service members and veterans are held in high regard by the general population, there is so much being done to support us and it truly is incredible. There are countless non-profits, government programs, and local organizations promoting veterans. Furthermore, there are amazing citizens that take vets to dinners, provide vacations, or simply just come up and say “thank you for serving.” These kind acts are overwhelmingly appreciated. As I approached my first Veteran’s Day as an actual veteran, I was asked how I thought people should thank veterans for their service. If you want to honor a veteran, here’s what you should do:
Live your life and be a good person. Be free and follow your heart. Strive to improve yourself each day and work towards living your dreams. Be involved and help serve your community. Instead of taking a veteran to dinner on Monday, donate that money to something like your local school district to provide a better education for our children. Absolutely do not tolerate sexism, racism, or bigotry of any kind and stand up for those that can’t do it on their own! If you are able, donate blood at the local hospital; someone suffering at some point will need it. Call your parents and tell them you love them. Treat yourself to something special or do something spontaneous and fun. Sit down around a table and enjoy a meal with your family or grab a beer with your friends. Watch Monday Night Football or read a good book. I would ask you to just be yourself and do what makes you happy, because by doing that, it is the greatest way you can honor a veteran and thank him or her for their service.
So, what am I going to do on Monday? I’m going to wake up like I do every day, thankful to be here and thankful to be free. I’m going to do what I can to be a better American, father, and human being. I’m not going to take my freedom for granted, and at the end of the day I’m going to hug my girls that much closer so they know how much I love them. I’ll appreciate everything I have and I’m going to be happy for that. Lastly, I will say thank you to all those whom have had the privilege of serving the values of freedom and liberty, veteran or not.