Veterans Day: The Importance of Serving Those Who Served

A older photo of Angela Williams in a uniform jacket that says U.S. Aire Force.Veterans Day was started in 1919 to honor those who fought in World War 1, and as a hope for future peace in the world. Sadly, the world has not been at peace for the following hundred years, but, thankfully, there have been people willing to offer their service to the cause of freedom. Now is the time to think about those soldiers and the sacrifices they have made.

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to serve in some way. My father, Chaplain J.C. Williams and mother, Eleather Williams, instilled in me a sense of purpose and belief in inclusion for all Americans. My dad was commissioned as the 5th Black chaplain in the history of the U.S. Navy, prior to that having served as the Executive Director of the NAACP South Carolina chapter and worked with great Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luthor King Jr. to fight for civil rights. Duty called for me, and I joined the U.S. Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant. This allowed me to become a lawyer and a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corp (JAG). This experience, when few Black women served in the JAG Corps, was foundational to my commitment to service.

As a JAG, I realized that soldiers are people with frailties and needs, despite their strengths and undeniable work ethics. This makes their service and their sacrifices all the more important to acknowledge; knowing their limitations, they still signed up for dangerous work that often has long-term consequences.

Sometimes it is easy to see the scars that Veterans carry, when they’re missing a limb or an eye, or use a wheelchair to move around. Sometimes it is more difficult to see those injuries, like those dealing with PTSD or other mental illnesses caused by their time in service. The truth is, no one emerges from the battlefield the way they were when they entered it. War is a painful experience, no matter where or how you serve.

Our country and society should not forget to honor and care for its Veterans. Transitioning to civilian life can be difficult, leading to feelings of isolation, struggles with PTSD, and other concerns. At Easterseals, we offer mental health counseling, job training and placement, and respite care for families. We must show up for them to ensure they get the help they need to thrive in the community.

As you celebrate Veterans Day this year, remember the cost that freedom carries, and the importance of those who paid that cost most dearly. In service and with pride, I express my gratitude to my fellow soldiers and carry with them a hope for a brighter future.


 

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