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My WWII veteran, Anatole Ray Matherne, 94

By: Hannah Matherne, Client Services Coordinator

Thanksgiving is the next big, commercialized holiday – even if it’s barely holding its own with Christmas items already filling the shelves. But before you make the jump from orange jack-o-lanterns to brown turkeys or your favorite team’s college colors, don’t skip over the red, white and blue treasure that we have in celebrating our veterans today.

As I began writing this post, I started typing that today is “not just another Wednesday.” It’s not. I’m thrilled to see that our community’s celebration of our veterans seems to grow a bit bigger each year. But as I reminisce on what it’s been like to grow up in a family of both veterans and active duty servicemen and women, I recognize that’s exactly what each day has been. Another Monday of WWII stories in Granddaddy’s garden after school. Another Thursday night of “working out” with dad when he came home from a long shift at work because it was in his soldier’s nature. Another Tuesday morning smile when a letter came with an Afghanistan postmark. Another Sunday afternoon helping my brother plan for his move to Missouri to finish officer training. Yesterday, I sat in the conference room with another veteran client who was adjusting his hearing aids – a daily habit he’s had for more years than most because he lost a substantial amount of his hearing while serving our country. Today is the day we recognize the every day.

I don’t know what it’s like to look at life without the perspectives of these men who I reference, because they have influenced my earliest of memories. Yet they even have it better than many. What about the veteran who goes through the process of adjusting prosthetics every day for the rest of her life? What about the one who listens to his granddaughter complain about drama at school, while he remembers how many of his childhood pals he saluted next to their final resting place under their country’s flag? Truly, what national holiday is better suited to lead us into Thanksgiving than this one: the one that reminds us of each day’s gift, regardless of each day’s challenge.

The challenges that our veterans have overcome are goldmines of wisdom, success, and hope for freedom. According to the Veteran’s Administration, we are losing approximately 492 WWII veterans each day. Have you held one of their hands? Have you laughed at one of their jokes? Have you seen them get up and dance like they were in their 20s again when they hear an old classic? I can bet there’s at least one in your neighborhood, maybe down the street or waiting next to you at the doctor’s office. You can see them, hear them, hug them, share a meal with them, or bring them fragrant flowers to brighten their nursing home bedside. These veterans aren’t 2D black-and-white faces in our history books – not yet. Our celebration of them doesn’t have to be limited to sunlit memorials in tourist books, either – it can be another part of your Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, everyday.

Working at the Legacy Center of Louisiana gives me the gift of interacting with our veterans every business day. Going home to my family gives me the gift of interacting with our veterans each night. But taking one day out of the year to celebrate our veterans on a national scale gives me the gift of seeing the difference that each day added together makes. It makes a family. It makes a country. It makes a legacy. What a treasure to celebrate!

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