It’s Time to Honor our Veterans


Photo by Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash

Gwendolyn Salata, Staff Writer

It wasn’t until years after my father served two tours in Iraq that I truly appreciated and understood what he and many other enlisted men and women have sacrificed. He, like many others, was not just a soldier who deployed overseas; he was also a working parent and spouse in the Army Reserve. I have often wondered which was harder.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel John Salata was deployed to Iraq in 2007. For five years, he spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan either on deployment, on contract or in a government position.

Growing up with an Army dad, I always looked forward to leftover meals ready to eat, otherwise known as MREs, that he brought home from drill weekends. He knew my siblings and I loved them, so he didn’t dare walk through the door without them. I think I was so eager for him to bring them home because it made me feel closer to him. In the Color Guard, he would do flag presentations and was in parades for patriotic holidays. I always felt so proud because he would be holding the American flag. When we were younger, my siblings and I called him Rambo, a self-given nickname that would stick even after 36 years of service in the military.

My father was not just in the Army my entire childhood; he also worked full-time. Sometimes he was just too tired to play.  Sometimes he would miss school events, and sometimes he was in his office with the door shut while my siblings and I were tearing the house apart. He had to do more than just juggle work and home life. He had to sacrifice taking care of himself to take care of his family. He had to sacrifice being present to serve his country and pay the bills.

Looking back, I realize how disconnected I was from the fact my father was in Iraq. It was just something else my dad was doing. When I was older, I learned that his zone was mortared more often than others while he was overseas. It was a shocking realization that being in the green zone does not necessarily mean being in the safe zone. When he was in Afghanistan, I mailed him Andes mints, one of his favorites. The thought never crossed my mind that they would melt before he received them. It was like we were worlds apart.

I don’t know how he did it, but my father was always patient and calm with his three children. I can barely make it through one day without getting stressed out, juggling school, my job and my family. I feel a lot of guilt when I realize how little time I have for my family. It really puts into perspective how my dad must have felt when I was younger.

This Veterans Day, remember our veterans and their families. Many veterans are estranged from their family members. Many were badly injured in combat. Many are still dealing with the aftermath of deployment, and many made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives. Let’s recognize those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for our country.