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Letter to a Veteran

Hey, Rob—I'll admit it.

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Hey, Rob—

I'll admit it. At first, I was really ticked when you said you were going to Afghanistan. We were all glad you got back home from Iraq in one piece just a few years ago. You remember that letter I sent you before you left, expressing my concern, pride and hope. But now Afghanistan?

Your retirement ceremony at Fort Bragg was impressive. It was an honor to be there and see that your fellow soldiers in both higher and lower ranks held you in such high regard. My family and I had the same thought that day—now Rob can be safe, spend more time with his family and find a new place in civilian life. (I was secretly hoping you might still get a few more parachute jumps in, too.)

Now you're in Afghanistan. When you retired, I thought you’d have an easy time rejoining the local community and finding the right kind of job to suit your background and abilities. So I was surprised that after months of searching, your best opportunity turned out to be with a government contractor handling the same kind of work you did in Iraq as a serviceman. Only this time it’s in Afghanistan, running a big operation with all of the headaches and dramas that go with a management position in business.

I hate having you away again. I also realize more about what it means to be a veteran. The toughest thing may be that you'll have to deal with the fact that veterans simply don't get the respect, honor and recognition that they deserve for their service to our country. I almost said “past service,” but now I understand that your service will always be "active" in a way. I know you can’t put aside the aches, impairments and disturbing memories from military life as you did the medals and old uniform. And when you return from the mountains and desert—again—you'll have to get back to the readjustments and realignments that are surely more difficult than I can imagine.

Like many Americans, I haven't paid enough attention to the veterans among us. There haven't been enough thank yous and signs of appreciation. All I can say is that I want to do a better job of that. This letter is a start. I hope it means something to you and to every veteran who reads these same words.

Thank you again. Get home safe, and stay put this time!

With love and respect,

Mark