I am not a serviceperson.
I serve my country in the classroom and in the home, not on the front lines.
From those still serving and those returned, I hear the stories, I read the memoirs, I feel the pain... and the pain becomes mine, as empathy is both my gift and my curse.
Many times, I have seen servicemen and women on the street, in the store, in the train station. I remain steps away, silent. In person, don't have words to embolden the troops, to honor the fallen, to comfort the suffering... my words live on paper and screen and fail me in the real world. Even the simple words THANK YOU elude me.
When I see someone in combat fatigues, however, my heart goes out to them: my only wish is that I was brave enough - attractive enough, young enough, anything enough - to put my arms around that man or woman, hug them tight, and show them how grateful I am for all they have done for me, for my family, for my country. I so wish I could take some of the pain away from those who have returned with more than they can bear alone. I wish I could tell them, with action rather than with words, that they are not alone... that they are loved.
For those of you reading this who fit the above descriptions... please consider yourself hugged.