By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

November is here, and in a few days two very important events are going to take place all across America: elections and Veterans’ Day. The two are inextricably linked, and the purpose of this Soldier is threefold: to remind everyone to vote, to remind everyone to thank a vet for protecting their right to vote, and to remind vets of the special discounts and freebies that have been made available locally and nationally to vets and/or their families as a part of our culture’s celebration of Armistice Day which began 99 years ago.

Let’s talk about voting first. May I say in the strongest possible terms that you have no business NOT voting in the upcoming mid-term elections on November 6? I don’t care what your political affiliation is, whether you have ever voted in a mid-term, or whether you have never voted. If you are registered to vote, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the candidates and proposed legislation, get yourself to your poll place, and take the approximately 15 minutes required to cast your ballot. It is the very least you can do to honor and remember those who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect you from tyranny, ignorance, and despotism. I have often said that one of the most valuable takeaways from my three years in Iraq was being around people, young and old, men and women, who were willing to die in order to be able to vote for the first time in their lives. They did things like purchase their coffins in the event that Al-Zarqawi made good on his threat to make a bloodbath if anyone defied him. They proved it with their purple index finger, the mark of liberty and perhaps death that they earned by plunging their finger into a well of purple ink after they voted, and before they hit the street again.

After you have voted, please take the time to communicate with at least one vet and thank them for their service. While you are at it, if it’s appropriate, please consider thanking their families as well. Those who have been in uniform know full well that they could not do what they do to protect us without the support of those on what was called in my parents’ day “the home front.” Wives sacrifice when their husbands are deployed. Husbands sacrifice when their wives are deployed, and in certain ways, they can have it tougher because there is not as much room in our culture for a wife serving on foreign shores and the husband at home with the kids. And kids sacrifice when either or both of their parents are deployed. I have often said that I wish there could be specific medals for spouses and children who have experienced being “deployed at home.” They are most deserving, in my view. If you are a vet, please take the time to thank a fellow vet for his or her service. You are the only one who can begin to understand from a personal level what they have given that we may be free, and you may be the only one on that day who bothers to express gratitude. For everyone, vets who struggle with suicide have been shown to be far less willing to end their lives if someone thanks them, even if the thankful one has never served, so “go with your gut.” If you are feeling the nudge to say “Thank you,” do it.

Finally, if you are a vet, please avail yourself of the myriad discounts and “freebies” that have been made available locally and nationally as a way of our country saying, “Thank you for your service.” For example, the Birmingham Zoo offers free admission. Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Cracker Barrel have discounts on meals. Logan’s Roadhouse will offer a free meal to a vet on November 11 between 3 and 6 pm. Ruby Tuesday will give a vet a free appetizer. Great Clips will give a free haircut, Dollar General will knock 11% off a purchase on November 11, and thankfully the list is extensive. ID requirements vary, so be sure to do your due diligence before you go. For a complete list of “givebacks,” go to www.military.com, and from all of us, from the bottom of our hearts, we honor you.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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