I’m grateful to Jil Hinds and AARP-Georgia for this opportunity to speak with you today.
I participated in Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia with the XVIII Airborne Corps, in Operation Iraqi Freedom with Central Command in Qatar, and in Baghdad, Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division. I served 27 years in the greatest Army on the planet. My name is Angela M. Odom and I am a proud Army veteran.
Since 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the American people observed November 11, first as Armistice Day at the end of World War 1 and now as Veterans Day. I thank all who are here and all who will gather around this nation over the next few days to continue this great tradition of celebrating men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Marine Corps, and Coast Guard
I’ve had no greater privilege than to serve as a battalion commander in Iraq for 14 months during combat operations.
Not every veteran has been exposed to the crucible of combat, but most any veteran of any and all eras will tell you that their time in uniform was one of the most important in shaping their lives.
They’ll credit their time in the military with instilling in them virtues such as discipline and loyalty. They’ll talk about a bond that joins all of them, from all branches of service, together.
Whether drafted or enlisted, commissioned or non-commissioned, each took an oath, lived by a code, and stood ready to defend our nation.
In so many ways, our veterans have shaped the lives we live today.
Remember all Veterans
Most Americans profess to truly love our veterans, especially at gatherings like this during the Veterans Day and Memorial Day seasons.
And while their feelings are usually sincere, it is important to remember that veterans are defending us 365 days a year. The heroism that has been demonstrated time and again by veterans from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terrorism is sometimes unnoticed by those of us who enjoy the security that their sacrifice has provided.
There are many appropriate ways to honor veterans. First and foremost, remember us, our accomplishments, and our sacrifices.
Fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the title "veteran." Far less than 1 percent of our population is currently defending us around the globe.
I’m going to ask you to acknowledge all of them; the men and women, those who kick in doors and those who support those who kick in doors. Those who served during all of the eras, not only the ones you have an affinity towards. Those who served on Active Duty, in the National Guard and in the Reserve Forces.
Without the veterans of the American Revolution, there would not even be a United States of America.
Without the veterans of the Civil War - who fought on either side for what they believed in - the strong, united America we know today might never have been possible.
Without the World War II veterans, we might be living in a country - in a world - where freedom of choice or the right to vote no longer exist.
And without those currently fighting the War on Terrorism, we would be living in constant fear - or simply, without freedom.
Tens of thousands don’t come alive. Hundreds of thousands return home with invisible wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depression, Severe Anxiety, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and the psychological toll of prolonged exposure to combat-related stress over multiple rotations. Unlike the physical wounds of war, these conditions are often invisible to the eye, remaining invisible to other service members, family members, and society in general. These conditions affect mood, thoughts, and behavior; yet these wounds often go unrecognized and unacknowledged.
The first few months after retirement I felt disconnected from my social network, family and friends and the Army. It was as if I was grieving a lifelong friend’s departure. After much reflection I found that I mostly missed engaging with like-minded, people who innately understood my mannerisms, tone, and language.
It was a culture shock to go from working with Soldiers and living on military installations to working from home and living in a small suburban town in Georgia, where the closest active duty military installation is a couple hundred miles away. I really took for granted the natural social networks that are easily created in the military.
I really like how AARP supports military veterans
In my research I found that at least 4 million AARP members are in the military or are veterans. AARP has a lot of ways to repay the dedication veterans and their families have shown.
AARP provides information that can help make your military savings plan last longer, grow larger and stay safer.
AARP offers effective resources and innovative tools, and spotlights employers that value experienced workers. Operation Protect Veterans, a campaign designed to better educate veterans about possible scams and how they can protect themselves.
AARP is teaming up with state-level agencies and nonprofit organizations to connect veterans to the benefits and services for which they are eligible. AARP provides planning resources to family caregivers.
AARP also brings their expertise on Medicare, Social Security and other programs to help veterans navigate these systems. I’m an AARP fan.
Show Support for Our Veterans
We honor our veterans by insisting that our nation live up to Abraham Lincoln's promise “to care for him who should have borne the battle, and for his widow and orphans,” and we honor them by never ceasing the search for those missing who have yet to come home.
Veterans don't ask for much. They do not want to be in a "special class," but benefits are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the financial and human cost of war. And while not all veterans see war, most who served in the military have expressed a willingness to fight if called to.
You can show your support for these great men and women by providing life sustaining future skills such as healthcare, employment, education, housing and recognition. You can also visit a VA hospital, donate to a veteran’s program and advocate for members of the Guard and Reserves when they deploy so that their careers don’t suffer.
Most Veterans are Proud of their Military Service
Historians have said that Dwight Eisenhower was prouder of being a soldier than he was of being the president. And while relatively few veterans ever reach the rank of general, pride in ones' military service is a bond shared by nearly all who have served.
This pride is on display on every obituary page in the country and within our nation’s cemeteries, where military service – regardless of how many decades have passed and subsequent achievements reached – is mentioned with the death notice of nearly every deceased veteran.
Such as on Harriet Tubman’s tombstone.
It reads, “To the memory of Harriet Tubman Davis. Heroine of the Underground Railroad, Nurse and Scout in the Civil War. Born about 1920 and died March 10, 1913 at Auburn, NY. Servant of God. Well Done”
As a proud Army veteran, my thoughts turn today to the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who are deployed around the world, around the clock, protecting and defending America in places we have difficulty pronouncing.
They will be there when we are sleeping tonight, they will be there every Saturday, every Sunday, every holiday. And they will be missing their family, friends, and loved ones back home.
For those veterans here today, please share your story with others. Let people know what you’ve done so they can see the many faces of military service and appreciate the personal service of their neighbors.
If you are not a veteran: find someone in your life who is a vet and ask them about their service—or simply say thank you.
The more we talk about what we do and the impact military service has on our lives, the better able we are to hold it up as an example of excellence.
Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps who will celebrate 245 years on November 10th. To all the veterans here today—I sincerely thank you for your service and your sacrifice.
I share the pride you feel in being able to say we have served in the greatest military in the world.
Thank you all for choosing to honor veterans today and show your support of our heroes, past and present.
May God bless our veterans.
May God bless all those serving in harm’s way.
And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
P.S. Click HERE to get a PDF copy of this speech
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela M. Odom is a leadership coach and an author of BRONCO STRONG: A Memoir of the Last Deployed Personnel Services Battalion and a contributor to Camouflaged Sisters: Leadership Through The Eyes of Senior Military Women Leaders