By: Miranda Ochocki

When Lisa Groon started her service with the South Dakota Army National Guard in 2000, she simply followed in her family’s footsteps. She recalls being a naïve teenager sitting at the dinner table with her recruiter and parents, dozing off as they droned on about retirement benefits. Little did she know, she would meet her husband, Jason, and together they would have two little boys. She retired this past June after 22 years of service, more optimistic, determined, and open-minded than when she joined, and eternally grateful for the experience. 

As Veteran’s Day approaches, I wanted to share Lisa’s story and ask her about how to honor veterans – not just on the holiday, but every day. 

“Getting support was the most important thing for us, especially after having children,” Lisa shared. Dual military duty, where both Lisa and Jason would leave for drills, demanded an all-hands-on-deck situation. In addition to childcare, they appreciated support in mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, helping with meals, and other household duties. 

When I mentioned, somewhat embarrassed, that I never knew what to do when I saw someone in uniform on the street, she gave me advice. Lisa said, “just thanking them for their service is a great place to start, but you can also open up the conversation to ask them about their service if it seems appropriate.” She mentioned that many Vietnam veterans didn’t get an opportunity to tell their stories, but they would love to. They wear their hats proudly, and most would happily share their experience. However, Lisa mentioned not to ask combat-type questions. Instead, the memories they like to share about their relationships with their buddies, funny things that happened when they served, the work they did, and the sacrifice of their time. 

While Veteran’s Day to many of us looks like flags hanging from our porches, pancake feeds, and parades, there are many other ways to show appreciation for veterans year-round. Next time you encounter a veteran or service member, start with a simple “thank you for your service.” If your neighbor is on active duty, let them know how you can support them while they serve and sacrifice for us. A little support and appreciation can relieve a sometimes heavy burden for these families.Thank you to all our active and retired military men and women. Happy Veteran’s Day.