Army Colonel, a Mesothelioma Survivor, Salutes Veterans Day

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Veterans Day is a special day for a lot of reasons, most importantly because it celebrates all veterans, past and present.

Originally called Armistice Day, the commemoration marked the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars,” which occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

In 1954, Congress expanded the recognition to celebrate all veterans, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the “Veterans Day Proclamation.”

I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma earlier this year. I’ve had aggressive surgery. I’ve had radiation. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy.

My mesothelioma diagnosis has brought new meaning to the importance of Veterans Day for me.

Mesothelioma Will Not Define Me

I’m now back in uniform, something I didn’t think would be possible after everything I initially heard about mesothelioma. I have a fully functional life now, doing most everything I want to do, except maybe running.

It makes me proud to put on the uniform again and come to work every day. It is special to me that I can continue to serve despite the cancer.

Mesothelioma is something I’ll live with for the rest of my life, but I won’t let it define me. You can’t. What defines me is my family, and my military service is a big part of that definition.

Preserving the Umbrella of Freedom

No veteran jumps up and down and says, “Please celebrate me.” We are doing a job just like anyone else.

Personally, I look at the generations before us as the heroes: those who chose to serve in defense of our freedom, the veterans who are no longer with us and those currently in harm’s way.

They have preserved the umbrella of freedom we all enjoy and often take for granted.

Veterans Day helps me look back and reflect on what this nation is about — our Constitution. It makes me think about the turbulent times we are in now, all the discord happening around us.

While we look at the craziness and wonder if we can make it through, our Constitution still stands, more than 230 years later. That’s pretty incredible.

World War II Veteran

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Taking Care of Veterans

When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma it made me realize the disproportionate number of veterans who develop cancer compared to their civilian counterparts.

Based on the statistics we see now, we need to make sure veterans are being screened for these different problems and are being treated. I know the Army and the VA will do their part for me and will continue to ensure all veterans are taken care of.

On this Veterans Day, thank a veteran for their service by unifying around the freedoms they protect. The Constitution was not created for one party or one ideology, but for one great nation that could survive turbulent times such as these we see now.

If there is one thing we as a nation need to fight for, it’s the veterans who provide that umbrella of freedom for us to live our lives as we do.

That’s what Veterans Day is about.

Col. Doug Thomas, 45, currently serves as chief of operations for the Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team at the Fort Sill (Oklahoma) Army Base. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in May and underwent extensive treatment that included aggressive surgery at the Baylor Medical Center in Houston. He returned to his post in September. He wrote about Veteran’s Day for Asbestos.com.

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