As I rushed home from a ministry event today to spend some time with my favorite veteran on Veteran’s Day, I pondered the role he played during his extensive time in the military and compared it to my current role as a caregiver. I found some amazing similarities.
He, too, gave up much of his autonomy and freedom to serve others and to advocate for another’s freedom and well-being. As a Vietnam Era vet, he did not receive any fanfare or thanks or gratitude when he returned home from active duty. As he continued to serve in the National Guard for years thereafter, he too had to look upon his service as a calling of sorts – a contribution that served a purpose and brought value to others. His time in the military changed who he became from those experiences, just as caregivers find they are not the same person they were when their journey began. And, as even now I try to express my gratitude for all he sacrificed for total strangers, I cannot fully understand how difficult that must have been. It makes my work as a caregiver seem small in comparison and I am so grateful to be able to do this for him in return for his efforts over an entire lifetime to support other people.
As we reflect on Family Caregiver Month it is natural to think about the caregivers among us who may no longer be giving care but are now a care recipient. No longer advocating for others, but instead needing someone to advocate for them. A spouse. A parent. A sibling. An adult child. A friend. A veteran! Many of them for years and in a number of ways did the giving with little or no recognition or appreciation for the effort.
So, as we sat together today watching college football and sharing a tailgate-style supper during the big game, I not only felt deep gratitude that he is still with me to do this on a Saturday afternoon but also remembered to offer my respect and praise on this Veteran’s Day for his many contributions to others over the years. I am privileged to be able to care for such a caring person.
Up for Discussion: Do you have a veteran that you are celebrating today? Does caregiving for a one-time caregiver make the task at hand a little easier? Please share your thoughts on this idea!