When former President Woodrow Wilson established what we now call “Veterans Day,” he invited the people of the United States to observe the holiday “with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”
On this Veterans Day, friendly relations are needed as much as ever. And maybe one way to get some of that back is with some perspective.
On Tuesday, Atlantan Dan Berschinski saw his mortgage evaporate. Zero balance. Paid for 100%, thanks to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. It provides mortgage-free homes to military and first responders who “continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
Berschinski, a retired Army captain, falls squarely into that category.
When he spoke to WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress, Berschinski didn’t mention he’s the military’s first “above-the-knee” and “hip-disarticulation amputee” to walk on a daily basis. But, he is.
In 2009, about a month into his first tour, the West Point grad stepped on an improvised explosive device in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan. It instantly blew off both of his legs above the knees, broke his jaw, and shattered his left arm.
Burress began by asking what that long recovery has been like.
“Up until that point in time, my identity was that of a young infantry officer. I kind of defined myself by my physical capabilities,” Berschinski said.
“My whole world was about jumping out of airplanes, marching long distances, and fighting, if I needed too.”
Berschinski said he is now doing everything he can to still give back to his country, even if not through military service. In a recent CNN political Op-Ed, the retired Army captain said he wants a president who understands military service and sacrifice.
“The No. 1 way Americans can support its veterans is by using our military judiciously and as sparingly as possible,” he said.
“Americans need to do that hard work of understanding where and how our military forces are being used.”
Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.