Tuesday, November 12, 2013
OBSERVING VETERAN’S DAY
As most of you know my husband is a Vietnam vet and I am very proud of that. He enlisted, he was not drafted, nor did he run off to Canada. Instead he chose to go into the army and fight for our freedom and the freedom of others when it was not a popular thing to do.
I didn’t meet him until he’d been home from Nam for almost a year, for that I am thankful too. I don’t know that I could have bore the stress so many of our nation’s families bear now when their military spouses are in war zones.
I met my husband 41 years ago this month and we wed the following spring. He seldom speaks of Nam and when he does it’s just briefly. I’m still learning after all these years what he did there and how it shaped the man I know and love today.
For years he didn’t stand up when different organizations saluted the vets, because he came home during the “baby killer” era. He was told to NOT wear his uniform on leave to avoid trouble and that stuck with him for years. Things changed a few years ago and now he proudly wears clothing designating him as a vet and stands up when saluted for his service.
Until this year we have never taken advantage of the free meals for vets offered by so many restaurants. Oh occasionally we’ve picked up a fast food sandwich offered for free to a vet, through the drive-thru, but we’ve never gone into a restaurant for the free meal.
This year I convinced him to take advantage of the meal offered at Golden Corral. I am glad I did, because it affected both of us greatly. I want to thank Golden Corral, the Disabled Veterans of America and Gary Sinise for making the opportunity possible.
I know that sounds strange that a free meal can impact your life and make you think hard about what it represents, but it did.
We almost didn’t go because we knew it would be crowded and neither of us is big on crowds, but we did go.
When we were got there the double line reached out both doors and we almost left as the wind had started to turn chilly and neither of us had a jacket on. But then a man came up to us and asked if Gary was a vet, as another offered us our choice of cookies from a platter.
My husband nodded quietly, and the man placed a sticker on his chest and said “thank you for your service, enjoy your meal, you earned it and much more.”
The sticker read simply “I served” That said a lot in those two words. As we stood in line we looked around to see men and women of all ages and all conditions of health. Some were minus limbs, others in leg braces, a few on ECV’s and some just had a totally lost look on their faces.
Once we got into the atrium of the restaurant I could hear the background music playing on the P.A. system and soon realized it was a combination of military salute music and music from each era of the various veterans that were there. I smiled when “White Rabbit” played.
A quiet announcement told us that all the servers were NOT being paid for waiting on our tables today that they had all volunteered their service in an effort to say thank you to those that helped them maintain their freedom. There was no asking for a donation or tip for the servers, but I noticed that every vet, including us, left a tip for the servers as we left.
When one vet walked by with a service dog no one objected to the dog being there and a small child in front of me said “puppy Daddy” as it went by. His young veteran father replied—“son that dog is a soldier, helping another soldier.”
Something about that words, and looking around at all the brave men and women from wars from WWII forward made tears well in my eyes.
These were the people who had fought in one way or another to give us as a nation the right to have all we have and to strive for more if that is what we want.
When we reached the register my husband was again thanked for his service and a greeter took us to a seat among other Vietnam vets.
As we went through the buffet line I realized that my husband’s age and that our era, the Baby Boomers, were the largest represented and while we were almost entirely surrounded by those that proudly wore hats, pins, leather motorcycle vests stating they served in Viet Nam the older and younger vets were sprinkled in, but far fewer in number.
Was it because only our generation was ready to be saluted in such a manner? Or has our patriotism taken a hit? I pray it’s the former and not the latter. I hold out hope for our younger generation, after all like the young man said “ a soldier, helping another soldier.”
During the meal my husband grew quiet as he watched groups of vets that knew each other meet up and hug each other. He later told me it made him, like it made me, realize how many of our friends didn’t come home, or who have since died from wounds and Agent Orange from the war. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that these fine men and women had served and survived to inspire future generations, like the young soldier holding his toddler son and telling him the dog was a soldier, helping another soldier.
Veterans Day is over for this year, but many soldiers still need our support and gratitude every day of the year. Let’s not forget how important their service is to all of us as a nation.
Jan who is VERY proud to be the wife of a Vietnam vet in OK