Thanking Veterans for Their Service

The following blog was written by a ProMedica employee in reflection of Veteran’s Day 2021. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely the opinions of the author. They do not reflect the opinions of ProMedica or other ProMedica employees.

As a civilian whenever I would meet a man or woman who served our country in the military, I would say, “thank you for your service.” My words were well-intentioned and came from a sincere place.

This was until I met Jim. Jim was introduced to me as a Marine who served in the Korean War; more specifically, the Chosin Reservoir. I instinctively thanked Jim for his service.

I was not familiar with this battle, the Chosin Reservoir. I did not remember learning about it in high school so long ago and I had never met someone who spoke about it. That night I looked up the Chosin Reservoir.  I was in tears. My tears were not because of the insane conditions these men were fighting in—and against.  My tears came from a place of embarrassment. I thanked Jim without knowing the true service and sacrifice he gave our country. At this point, my thank you felt empty. I had met someone who fought in one of the most savage battles in Marine Corps history. The next day, I was with Jim again and told him about my research the night before. I offered him an apology for my ignorance when I thanked him the day prior. I asked Jim if I could thank him appropriately. I explained that I had no idea of the battle he served in and thanked him for teaching me a very important lesson that I would remember when thanking Veterans in the future. We embraced and from that day began to develop a strong friendship.

When Jim and I would meet, I learned a little more about him as a person, as a father, as a husband. I became friends with someone who served as a frontline machine gunner and a squad leader in five major battles, including the battle of the Chosin Reservoir. I learned that Jim was a recipient of several military decorations including the Purple Heart Medal for injuries he received on the battlefield. I learned about Jim’s story.

Those who served in the military have his/her own story surrounding time in service and individual sacrifices that were made. Not all stories are the same, and not every person has the same experience. The story matters and the individual Veteran matters.

My lesson: Give intention to my thank you. Before I thank an individual Veteran for his/her service, I ask questions so that I may offer an informed thank you. Some questions I ask: What branch did you serve? When did you serve? How long did you serve? What was your job while serving?

Nowadays, I am not thanking a Veteran…I am thanking a “Jim” who enlisted at age 17 and served four years (1948-1952) in the Marine Corps as a machine gunner in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.

Tracy Rosinski is the Regional Veteran Liaison for ProMedica Hospice and Heartland Home Health & Hospice agencies. Recognizing Veteran’s Day helps us build a culture of inclusion that leverages diversity and creates equity in our workplace, health care and our communities. Learn more about ProMedica’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.