Here we are. Again. Veteran's Day. The one day a year that we as a society have set aside to say thank you to our nation's veterans. The latest buzz around the internet is a list of where veterans both past and present can stop by and get a free cheeseburger, or a free appetizer (with the purchase of a meal, of course) or discounted admission to a baseball game. And I don't mean to belittle those gestures, not by any means. I think it's an encouraging thing when local businesses step up to recognize the sacrifices our veterans have, do, and will make for the freedom that we all enjoy. I just can't help but think some watered down happy hour menu probably isn't quite balancing the scales.
For veteran's such as myself, our days of service and glory have long since faded away. More suns have set since my separation from the Air Force than all the days in its service. I can rattle off some of the names of the people I served alongside, but not as many as I used to. Names such as Flaherty, Welichko, Oaks, Maldonado, and Pike all remain fresh in my mind, but the name of others have been demoted to >>snapping my fingers<< "That Steve-Something guy who dated that girl," or, "that guy I did base detail with that one time." So speaking strictly for myself, along with the fleeting glory goes the fleeting sacrifice. Freshly creased sleeves and perfectly straight giglines have given way to a receding hairline and new handmade notches on my belt. I no longer have to worry about spending time away from my family for the holidays (unless it's by my choice, haha!) or when the next time I'll be able to sit across the dinner table and feel safe. No, I think for veterans such as myself, the very last thing we need is a free order of chicken wings; instead I suspect a firm handshake and a heartfelt, "thank you for your service," will do quite nicely.
So to me, the real question is what are we going to do for our country's military, the folks who are on active duty and standing in harms's way, right here and right now? And I don't mean just for today, because it's Veteran's Day. Remember that being in the military is a full-full time job; 7 days a week, 365 days a rear. Okay, except for us Air Force guys, we were strictly 9-5 Monday-Friday. But I remember putting in a few weekends. But seriously, I didn't believe that doing something nice for a single day, and then turning a blind eye the other 364 days of the year is how we want future generations to judge us, in regards to how we treat our nation's warriors.
So what am I setting you up for with this big long winded speech? Well, if you've known me for awhile you know that Veteran's Day is the official kickoff of a project me and a few friends started twelve years ago, back in December of 2001. The horror of the 9/11 attacks were fresh on everyone's mind and I wanted to do a little something for the military that I had left a few years prior. I asked around for some donations, with the hopes of being able to buy a couple of down-and-out servicemembers a plane ticket home for the holiday season. You stepped up handsomely and before we knew it we had $14,000 and some 25 young warriors -- who would have otherwise never been able to afford plane tickets -- made it home to see their families for Christmas morning. With that, an annual tradition was born.
And so with this 2013 season of LBEH kicking off today, I ask you, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more." Casey just flushed the databases clean, Bibi is ready to start verifying applications, Kat is ready to start booking tickets and me? Well it's my job to climb up here on this soapbox and give you The Speech. You know the one. Make you remember your time in the service. Make you remember sitting in the dormitory alone, while everyone else drove to the airport. Tug at your heart strings a little. And most importantly, to ask you to open your wallet and part with a few bucks to help send a soldier home for Christmas.
We haven't even opened applications yet and we've already got a dozen requests in the pipeline; the poor folks we had to deny flights to last year because their tickets were prohibitively expensive; Senior NCO's looking out for some junior troops; or a friend of a friend who heard we were able to help out someone they knew last year. The requests will indeed roll in. Will we be able to fulfill them all? What's entirely up to you, dear reader. Ever since 2005 LBEH has been an IRS bonified 501c2 non-profit; your donations are tax deductible and unlike some of the bigger charities, we keep our administrative costs down to around 4%-5%. Meaning we are an all volunteer staff -- almost every penny from every dollar you donate goes directly towards the troops' airfare.
Last year we received around $89,000 in donations and frequent flier miles, and were able to send 118 troops home. So PLEASE, do me proud. Help some of the most overworked and underpaid people who work tirelessly in our nation's service. Let's give some of our military a pretty special gift this holiday season; their families. Yep, it's time. LET'S BRING EM HOME!!