Take Time to Talk to Veterans and Listen to What They Have to Say
Today I walked into a bar and sat down at a table next to a random veteran. He didn't know me and I didn't know him, but it was Veterans Day and I wanted to buy this man a beer.
His name is Jimmy Hoesterey of Westport, and at the age of 75, he still remembers his time in the service back in 1970.
Hoestery, or "Haus," served in the Vietnam War, and even to this day, he has trouble speaking of it. Before I could ask about his time overseas, I could already see his eyes welling up as he began to tell his story. Just from looking at him, I could feel his pain that he's carried with him for the past 50 years.
Although the topic of war is never an easy one, Hoesterey took a sip of his beer and started from the beginning.
"Another round on me, please," I asked the bartender.
He spoke of the troubles that he's had to live with all these years in a despondent voice and I could tell that it was difficult for him to explain, but nonetheless, he wanted to tell his story regardless if he knew me or not.
The Vietnam War took a lot from him, including some close friends, soldiers, that were in his company. He spoke of napalm and Charlie Company and how the actions and decisions of his superiors saved his life. If it weren't for them, he too would be in the chopper that got shot down in the dense and dangerous jungles of Vietnam, and he wouldn't have been able to tell his story.
To this day, Hoesterey suffers from pain both physically and mentally. His time in the service was nonetheless heroic, despite the memories and sacrifices that follow him around each and every day.
Short on time, I was only able to spend a couple of hours with Hoesterey, but if I hadn't walked into that bar and sat next to a complete stranger, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn the hardship that he went through and is still struggling with.
PTSD is a longstanding issue among veterans, lurking inside the very minds of the men and women who gave up a part of their own lives – some not by choice – to sacrifice for the country that they love.
So the next time you see a veteran sitting at a bar or in public, no matter how old they are, introduce yourself to them. A simple act of kindness goes a long way, especially for our veterans, because when their tour is over, a new war is waiting for them at home. Their mental health is just as important as our own, so just letting them know that you are there for them means everything.
For all the men and women who have served, are currently serving, and are no longer with us, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Know that you don't have to struggle alone and that it's ok to not be ok.
Happy Veterans Day, Hoesterey, until we meet again. I got your beer. It's the least I can do for all that you've done for us.