Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day.

I did not serve in the United States Military, my grandfather did in World War One.  I have no possible idea what his experiences were like as he passed before I was born, but sitting on my desk are two spent .30-06 cartridges from his funeral.  There were times growing up when there was an overwhelming feeling to join the Military.  Frequent trips to Army Surplus stores throughout my youth yielded various backpacks, fatigues and other camping gear; patches were my favorite pieces to collect.  At one point in high school I sat down with a recruiter from the Marine Corps and asked him some questions.  He asked me a few and once he realized that I had blown my ACL playing soccer, he was less interested in my service.  That was alright with me, I was actually more afraid to enlist than I was of heading off to college.  Two high school friends enlisted in the Marine Corps, during my freshman and sophomore years we wrote letters back and forth – I still have those letters.

Years later, I find myself saying “thanks for your service” to men and women I’ve never met; it happens in parking lots, at gas stations and just about anywhere it can.  I can’t really help it, it just comes out and immediately they light up and are very appreciative. There is something inside me that wants to know more about their service and their time spent defending our freedom, but those are personal feelings and experiences that I am not warranted to know. I have a large list of fishing clients that are serving or who have served in the US Armed Forces. Some of them openly share, others just want to unwind and not discuss “work”. They come out to Montana, not for the fishing, but for the peace and quiet our great state offers. In the drift boat I witnessed grown men, with more clearance than most folks will ever have, completely breakdown and lose their shit. That story in it’s entirety will never appear on the pages of this blog- it just wouldn’t be right. I get it though, really, cause the stress that these men and women are put through is nothing like what the rest of us Joes have to deal with. It’s similar, but not the same.  One can’t relate, one can only try to understand and respect it.  There is a common phrase used in society today – “the upper 1%”.  That’s typically used for the ultra wealthy, but “the other 1%” is now being used for those who served in the Military.  Nowadays, only one percent of Americans have served in the Armed Forces. That’s actually quite disturbing and is the real reason why the general population of America doesn’t understand what’s going in the world today.

Another client, who became a friend (as many do), is a co-founder of a program/organization called Words After War.  Brandon Willetts is a Navy Veteran and a writer.  His father and grandfather are both Veterans as well….it runs in their blood. Brandon and his business partner are trying to bridge the gap between Vets and the rest of us.   Their program is gaining ground. One day not too far down the road, they will be the ones who figured out the way to make us understand what’s it like to be a Vet trying to assimilate back into society.