Of the 365 days in the year, only two of them, Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, are set aside to remember the sacrifices of America’s servicemen and women. They make up 13% of our adult population, but they carry 100% of the burden of defending and maintaining our freedom. For all of the Americans that give us everything, we devote 7.3 % of our American Calendar to pay them tribute.
While setting aside two days a calendar year to honor and celebrate our veterans is certainly a good thing, the real question is this: What do we do to honor them for the other 363 days a year?
These veterans, for all their selflessness and sacrifice, deserve 365 days of our gratitude.
We’ve given you a lot of numbers so far, but it’s about a lot more than numbers; it’s about people who have given everything to us, and reminding us that real gratitude really means giving them something back.
In the spirit of gratitude, and giving back, Mobile Illumination launched its Decorated for Service Christmas Giveaway on social media this last November to raise greater public appreciation for the 330,000 veterans of Los Angeles County, and to award one of our local heroes with a holiday lighting and décor package valued at $3,000.
During this campaign, someone shared a moving personal story with us. The story came to us in the form of an email from Kathryn Sanchez, whose husband, Michael Sanchez, served a one-year combat tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, gaining the rank of Sergeant. In her email, Kathryn revealed that over the course of that year in Vietnam, Michael was exposed to “Agent Orange,” and as a consequence of “living and fighting in Agent Orange,” he developed cancer in 2001.
Even though Michael’s part in the war ended in 1968, in many ways it never really ended. He had major surgery to remove the cancer and endured 35 rounds of radiation treatment. Beyond the cancer, the Agent Orange exposure contributed to the onset of diabetes, requiring him to take Insulin shots every day, and over the past few years, Michael, diagnosed with PTSD by the VA, struggles with traumatic memories that often force him to re-live the war.
In spite of all these daily battles, Michael Sanchez’ remains a source of tireless hope and enduring perseverance. His spirit and lust for life remain unbroken. He loves the holidays, and according to Kathryn, he “loves Christmas most of all,” and decorating with “lights…lights…and more lights.” While nothing gives him greater joy than decorating his home for the holidays, over the last few years, according to Kathryn, “it has become too difficult for him to put up the Christmas lights himself.”
Kathryn’s email and Michael’s story touched our hearts at Mobile Illumination. This past December, to honor him and to celebrate his love of Christmas, we decided to decorate his home with the Christmas lights he loves so dearly.
It was the least we could do for someone who has given so much to all of us.
At Mobile Illumination, men and women like Sergeant Michael Sanchez remind us to be grateful for our brave servicemen and women, and to find sustainable ways to express that gratitude. We like to remember the words of President John F. Kennedy, a wounded veteran of World War II, who reminded us that, “as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Our veterans deserve far more than two days of remembrance every year. We at Mobile Illumination believe that the spirit of Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day should be lived and celebrated 365 days a year. And we also believe that our appreciation for Veterans is not measured by words but by actions.
So how do we make giving back to those who give to us an active and ongoing 365 day tribute?
It’s simple. You do it by joining us in our ongoing support of incredible organizations like The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization devoted to raising awareness of our injured veterans and to enlisting public aid in supporting them.
We ask you to pledge your support this year to organizations like The Wounded Warrior Project, so that together we can make every day like Veteran’s Day.