A Day To Remember

How One Recruit Changed Everything

I’m sad to admit that Veterans Day has often come and gone as another day on my calendar. Although I send my veteran father a ‘thank you’ text when I think of it, my Veterans Day does not usually focus on remembering the immense sacrifices that service people throughout our country make on a daily basis.

This year will be different. About two months ago my 18-year-old cousin, Nick, left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Nick and I have been close since he was just a baby, and I’ve often felt more like an older sister rather than a cousin to him and his siblings. When Nick announced to our family that he wanted to join the Marines a few years ago, his announcement was met outwardly with enthusiasm and encouragement from our family. However, inside I know a few of us were a nervous wreck for him. The outward pride and joy was sincere, but knowing the life-altering sacrifices and risk he would someday face was a difficult pill to swallow.

When Nick left for boot camp in early September, our family hugged him tightly and cried tears of joy, fear, excitement and heartbreak during a bittersweet goodbye. Deep down, I knew he would be just fine. He’s a mentally tough kid who has been preparing physically for more than a year. But what kept running through my mind was all of the family gatherings and events he would miss over the next four years, including one very close to my heart—my wedding. Though we will have a life-size cut-out of him at the wedding, it just won’t be the same without him on the dance floor!

As I reflect this Veterans Day, I will think not only of my recruit cousin, but of all the people past and present who have made immense sacrifices for our country. I interviewed Air Force Veteran Jeff Napier for our story, “Running With Pride,” this issue, and he described one of the most difficult sacrifices a military person makes is coming home to find that life has gone on without them.

To Nick, my dad, my grandpa, and all of the current and former military personnel, we thank you and we salute you. Thank you for making incredible sacrifices so we can live freely in this country.