I feel lucky that I have met and spoken with a number of our returning service men and women.
"Lucky" might not be the right word. Maybe it would be more accurate to call the experiences "enlightening."
Of all the topics and stories I have covered in the past year, it is the stories of those veterans who have returned home, some just for a short while before they go back overseas, or the ones that have finished their service, that resonate with me the loudest.
Through this profession, I have had the opportunity to meet people like Moses Sanchez. Sanchez, 34, who returned to Afghanistan earlier this year, has graciously allowed me to interview him and his family on multiple occasions. He has opened up to me about his background, his faith, his history, and his thoughts on things like the wars going on overseas. His willingness to discuss these things help paint a new picture in my mind about the people and personalities that put their lives on the line everyday to make the world a better place.
Yes, I think I have been enlightened but also lucky because writing for this publication has allowed me to meet and interact with people like Sanchez. Listening to his experiences and the others, I have gained a greater understanding of who the men and women in uniform are and that whatever their backgrounds, they have similar passions - family, friends and helping others.
"The rough moments... (are) reminders that we're at war and (I'm) not home in Ahwatukee with my wife and my kids (and that) can sometimes be rough, but we do what we have to do," Sanchez said in an email. "My biggest concern has always been my family at home. Communicating with my family helps them know that I'm safe. Peace of mind for my wife and kids gives me peace of mind to do my job here."
Recently, I had a chance to speak with Anthony Ameen, a former Ahwatukee Foothills resident who has received national recognition for his story of bravery. He joined the military shortly after 9/11.
Ameen, a Navy Corpsman, lost the bottom half of his left leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) while rushing to the rescue of a wounded Marine in Afghanistan.
When he returned to the States, he underwent 31 surgeries and a legal battle for his disability payments. Out of his experience an organization was born. Ameen started Wings for Warriors this year with the goal of helping his fellow veterans with information and contacts to help them receive the benefits they are entitled to.
"They make you fight for it (claims)," Ameen said. "You really come back a different person, I am living proof of that ... and I want to build this organization so veterans can get what we deserve."
Today, when we turn on CNN or Fox News or MSNBC, we see many stories about scandals and the 2012 Presidential election, which is just under a year from now. I am not saying these things aren't important just that sometimes the ongoings of the military can sometimes fly under the radar. With Veterans Day upon us, that will change. People will, for one day at least, think about the men and women in uniform.
These people need to be honored. They are just like us, only some are in the Middle East, disarming bombs, training the forces of other countries so they can protect themselves, with the goal of making the world a safer place.
They deserve to be thanked.
We just passed 10 years since 9/11 and almost nine years since the United State invaded Iraq. But, if President Obama sticks to his recent announcement, we won't make it to the nine-year anniversary of the Iraq War in March. Obama announced recently that the remaining troops, nearly 40,000 in number, will return home by the end of 2011.
Afghanistan, where close to 90,000 American troops are still stationed, is a different story.
When these troops return, it is our duty as fellow Americans and human beings to thank them for their service. Thanking the ones we know on Veterans Day is a good start.
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