Some Gave All. 58,000 plus names on a wall. I am humbled to have been in the company of these brave souls who gave all for our ideals of freedom and liberty.
This morning instead of my aging fedora I donned my shiny new Vietnam Veteran ball cap for my regular Tuesday visit to my favorite local establishment where I blog a little and meet up with my railroading buddies to talk a little shop. I arrived to find a large poster honoring vets and encouraging us to claim a free breakfast as a thank you for our service. I stepped into the line of my friend and server Kathy who graciously took and filled my order, thanking me for my service.
While my buddies and I sat at our table talking trains a younger fellow approached us, smiled, and said simply, “Thank you all for your service!” not knowing that some of us weren’t vets. One offered alternate service in a medical facility; one as a volunteer for an organization that provides scholarships for children of fallen soldiers. In their own way they gave some, and continue to give. That thank you was very appropriately offered, and very much appreciated.
As I looked around the dining room during our conversation my eye occasionally caught that of another diner who would smile at me and nod their appreciation. Thirty five years ago that might more likely have been a glare of malice for having participated in an unpopular war that did not result in an overwhelming victory. Of course back then I would not have been wearing that ball cap; I would not have claimed to be ex-military. In fact, I didn’t think very highly of myself or the military when I left active duty.
My Dad entered service in the last year of the second Great War to end all wars. He was a loadmaster in the Naval Air service, stationed in Miami. I entered service in the last two years of the Vietnam era. I was an accounting and finance officer at a bomber base in the UP. Both of us left active duty thinking we hadn’t contributed much to the war effort and thinking we didn’t really make much difference, we didn’t really deserve any special recognition.
But with age often comes a little wisdom. With age comes realization. With age comes understanding. With age comes a new perspective on your life and on the difference you may have made in the lives of others. Dad and I now understand that our service was important. I now understand that my service made a difference in the lives of those that gave some, and those that gave all. It made a difference to their families and their friends. It made a difference in the lives of those for whom we fought. We may not have served on the front lines, but we served those who did and years ago my family reminded me of that very important fact.
It is good that as a culture and a country we appreciate all who served, whether the war was popular or not. It is good that we honor those warriors wherever they fought; Iraq, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Pacific. It is good that we thank all who gave all, all who put their lives at risk, and all who supported those who did.
Today I thank everyone who served or continues to serve in any capacity with our military forces and in alternative services, and those who serve as volunteers in the many great organizations that support our military such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the USO. You all are my heros.
And on behalf of my Dad and me, know that we are deeply humbled and moved by your expressions of appreciation; it was our privilege to serve.
Contemplating those 58,000 plus names on that wall, the lives that were and the lives that could have been…Pops