Veterans Day is a great time to reflect on the service and sacrifices of all veterans who have served our country. The men and women who serve in our military make sacrifices big and small almost every day. I would argue to say most service members wouldn’t even consider their sacrifices a big deal.
While serving in the Navy, most of my days at sea included eight hours of work and another six to eight hours of standing bridge watch or some other type of “watch.” Watches are manned in every part of the ship that requires someone to be there 24 hours a day. Sometimes, watches would include part of your work responsibilities, but often times they were in additional duties. Twelve-hour days or longer are routine Monday through Saturday. Sundays at sea have a slightly different routine called “holiday routine”, which allows sailors to sleep in on Sunday morning, if not on watch.
I crossed the Pacific Ocean several times, which includes crossing the International Date Line. When heading west, we would lose a day, which was always Sunday. When sailing east we would always gain an extra weekday, never gaining back the Sunday we lost when we first went west five to six months earlier.
All veterans have their own stories of what their typical working days were. Seldom is a typical workday limited to eight-hour days, five days a week, and never with extra pay for overtime.
Working long days, six days a week with no overtime and losing your Sunday when crossing the International Date Line may seem like little things, little sacrifices that are normal and expected of sailors at sea. They add up when done week after week, month after month, and continue to accumulate over a four-year enlistment (or a 20+-year career). These little sacrifices become a way of life, accepted without thinking twice.
When transitioning to civilian life, these little sacrifices are no longer acceptable. There are rules, regulations and guidelines to ensure that workers do not have to endure extended working hours without due compensation. These requirements are in place for good reason. Discussing this little sacrifice of time is just one of the many sacrifices accepted by military service members when they serve their country.
When you thank a veteran for their service this Veterans Day, ask them what they did to serve our country. If you ask about their sacrifices, most will probably just shrug their shoulders and not reply. Nevertheless, given an opportunity to share with you a story about what they did would be appreciated. I know from my own experience, every sailor has a sea story to share.