From the desk of a veteran

Brownwood Bulletin
sean lewis

have always had a strong interest in the love languages. I find it interesting that so many people have not taken the chance to learn of the best way to show the people they love, that they love them. In the times we’re going through today, I feel as though focusing on showing people love, with so much hate and trauma going on in the world, would be in the best interest for all of us. The holiday season can be very stressful for our mental health. This is only compounded for Veterans as the thoughts of their own struggles and the missing of comrades adds into the equation.

There are two common misconceptions with Love Languages that I have witnessed in my job. The first is that the love language of Physical Touch means purely “romantic” type situations. This is hardly the truth. Many times, expressing love daily through physical touch can include much smaller sentiments, such as a small hug good morning, a kiss while your partner cooks, or a quick touch of your fingers across their shoulders as you walk by. The other misconception is that if someone receives love in one language, they must show it in the same manner. In my experience, this is usually the exact opposite. Let’s go ahead and quickly examine how best to incorporate these languages for your Veteran.

Words of Affirmation — This is often a hard language for a Veteran to USE, but quite often the one they need to receive the most of. Veterans are trained for years to conceal feelings, and definitely not speak them. Therefore, they may not be comfortable expressing these types of emotions. However, receiving words of affirmation could be a drastic change of pace for Veterans, and could have a great impact. “I’m proud of you babe,” “I’m honored to say you’re my son/daughter/husband/wife,” and “I appreciate all the things you do for us” are just some examples of great Words of Affirmation to keep in mind this holiday season.

Acts of Service — Some examples would be helping complete their “chores,” and doing special projects for them. Over time, in my position talking to Veterans, this seems to be the front runner for how Veterans tend to show their love for their loved ones. It doesn’t require them to talk or express feelings when they’re not ready yet. It only involves them doing something to make someone else’s life a bit easier, which is what we’ve been trained to do for years. It helps to keep Veterans in their comfort zone and to perform.

Receiving Gifts — As fun as it sounds to get gifts, this has the possibility of putting many Veterans in a unique and uncomfortable situation. Many Veterans have the intense fear of failure and hurting others, due to their own issues. Keep in mind, many Veterans are trained not to show emotions of joy or pain. So sometimes getting a gift from a loved one could leave your Veteran feeling ashamed, like they have not shown the kind of excitement that they should. Of course, they’ll feel it the excitement and gratitude, but the process of showing it is often what is missing. If gifting is your way of expressing love, I’d recommend giving a gift with thought behind it versus something you spent a small car payment on to impress and touch your Veteran.

Quality Time — Most times I’d say this is a middle of the road love language for many Veterans.  However, at this time of the year and with the widespread of COVID-19, quality time may have a large boost with many people, not just Veterans. Keep in mind that quality time doesn’t always mean expensive vacations or lavish date nights. It can often just mean finding a baby sitter, putting your phone away, and watching a cheesy movie on Netflix. It doesn’t always cost money to show you want to be around somebody.

Physical Touch — Like we discussed earlier, this doesn’t always mean the “romantic” version of physical touch. Small gestures mean the world to someone with the love language of physical touch. We all know that when a romantic relationship goes through the years, we often tend to put physical touch on a backburner. I would like to urge you to dedicate yourself to finding a way of employing this into your daily routine and show your veteran this love language.

In conclusion, I hope you’ll take these words and employ them into your life for your Veteran. Husbands, sons, daughters, wives, co-workers, friends…There’s veterans all around us, and like everyone else they have the desire to feel loved and needed. I hope this article could prove to be a blessing in your life and to your Veteran. You can find more detailed resources on the 5 Love Languages at www.5lovelanguages.com.  Also, please feel free to reach out to my office for anything I can do to help. God Bless and Merry Christmas.

Sean M. Lewis is the Brown County Veteran Services Coordinator and represents the  Center for Life Resources Military Veteran Peer Network.