Veteran Hope Nelson (above left) shares her thoughts on Veterans Day. She is pictured here with her college mentor Aimee Valles.
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
So begins the oath of enlistment and the oath of commissioning for American service members. This oath carries on in the hearts and minds of all former and retired servicemembers. The oath represents an unbreakable vow and with it a bond connecting those of us who raised our right hands in allegiance.
As a newly minted Army Veteran myself, I have only recently begun my first civilian career at the Lexington VA Medical Center. Within a very short amount of time, I quickly realized just what I had gotten myself into. Not only am I surrounded by countless hats with “Vietnam Veteran” stitched on, but I have also had the privilege of seeing a unique gathering of World War II, Korean War, and other Veterans at a recent Kentucky Honor Flight send-off.
For those not aware, the Honor Flight provides some Veterans with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital and visit war memorials dedicated to the wars in which they fought.
Capturing on camera the smiles of these Veterans about to embark on this incredible adventure was priceless and incredibly humbling for me. Through these initial encounters, I have felt first-hand the impact of the demographic I have now joined.
Alongside these gentlemen, the gravity of the title Veteran stirs up feelings of self-consciousness; I cannot help but compare my service to theirs. As we often hear, “All gave some and some gave all,” but I am starkly aware of just how small my own “some” feels: only four years of service with no deployments and all 5’2” of me is intact. I have all four limbs, eyesight, hearing, no shell shock, and a physically intact brain. Surely, I don’t design to be counted with them.
I count it an honor to stand among those who first raised their hands.
Despite my own feeling of inferiority next to those who came before me, I must remind myself of what I know is true: like my forbearers, I too did solemnly swear that I would support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and that I would bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
As I reflect on the service of those before me, I am reminded of the words of our nation’s first president: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
When all is said and done, I know I raised my right hand and made an oath. I count it an honor to stand among those who first raised their hands to the same oath. My experiences may not be the same, however, understanding who they are is a part of my continued service to Veterans with the VA.
From a fellow Vet, a heartfelt thank you to all Veterans on this Veterans Day for teaching me humility, sacrifice, and true fellowship.
For more than 18 years, the violin has been an increasing source of enjoyment, stress relief, and creative challenge for Hope Nelson, who enjoys practicing classical music and playing along to favorite songs.
While in the Army she was stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. and Fort Irwin, Calif.
Hope Nelson was a captain with the US Army Military Police and is now a public affairs specialist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.