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Honor Your Past, But Live In The Present

The celebration of America’s independence is a day for family, fireworks, hot dogs, everything red, white, and blue, and remembering history. This once-a-year celebration is a reminder of how the United States of America came to exist.

As a veteran, perhaps this history, or a family legacy of service, was why you chose to serve. Now, on the day of America’s independence, you have a strong nostalgia towards your memories of serving, maybe a place you went, a person you served with, the camaraderie you felt, or the good you did.

Take this moment and thank yourself for serving. In America, less than one percent of the population serves in the armed forces. You accomplished something very few Americans will ever know or understand.

Now, let it all go — literally, all of it. Find your independence from your past. This isn’t about being ashamed of your service or shedding the veteran title. While your service is part of your legacy, your personal story, it doesn’t define you as a human.

You did something very significant, but now it’s done. Maybe you left the service yesterday, a few years ago, or decades ago. They are simply memories, not your present.

Author Roy T. Bennet said, “The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence; the past is a place of learning, not a place of living.” Every veteran and their family members should have to read this quote upon separating or retiring from the military.

It’s easy to become imprisoned by your past, both the good and bad, but it’s not living. Living is what happens right now as you’re reading this. Every moment you dwell in the past, you’re stealing from your present, and that’s a tragedy.

You served and now is your time for you.

The present is all anyone has. This is your greatest reward: the opportunity to fully enjoy where you are and who you are. You can learn from your past and not live in it. Sometimes, this is easier said than done, but it’s vital to your personal growth.

Service members have a camaraderie that very few other professions have. This shared understanding draws us together but can also keep us rooted in the days of old. This entanglement is particularly tricky when the foundation for your closest friendships is service-related.

It’s common to reconnect and want to reminisce, but if that’s all you ever seem to do, you must set healthy boundaries that honor who you are now.

Start this process by establishing your personal Independence Day. This could be the day you joined, separated, retired, or a significant event from your service. On this day, call your friends, look at photos, take a vacation, throw a party… celebrate and honor your service.

Make time to reflect on the time you dedicated. The people that loved and supported you. This is your Independence Day. And when the sun rises the next day, use all the lessons from your past to enjoy this moment and the incredible human you are now!

Written By: Kurt Waterstradt


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