This blog is the direct result of a scene I witnessed at work. There was an older man, with white hair and the often seen veteran black baseball-style caps with the stars or troop/war in which they were involved. Usually when I come across people like this, I'm kind of thrown off and not sure how to respond. I feel like their experience and my lack of experience creates a wall between us, and that, in a way, they are "saintly" and beyond me. I therefore treat them with the same courtesy as anyone else, usually accompanied with probably not-so-clandestine-starings at their hats.
So a man like this came into my work place and was checking out at the other register. Two younger men, probably late twenties or so, were checking out at my register. I finished their transaction and thanked them like I do all customers, but then I watched them. One of the young men went up to the man at the register, courteously approached him, and said "Thank you for your service." I was in awe. (Why don't you ever do that, Jane? a voice inside me asked...followed by, Why don't more people do that in general?)
If I had known my grandfathers, hearing their stories of service in WWII and Vietnam would have been priceless to me. Alas, I never heard it told from their own mouths, and I've never really heard a veteran talk much about his experience. Perhaps that's another reason why the "wall" as I termed it forms. Some veterans I feel don't want to talk about it, or, if they did, I'm not sure how I would receive their information. But how selfish is it of me, to not thank a man who gave years of his life so that the world in which I live could be as it is today? Did he not leave behind a sweetheart, a wife, children, his youth, his innocence? War changes a soul. A soul willing to die for his country is also willing to die for the collection of its citizens, the individuals, like you and me.
I'm reminded of an occurrence that happened four or so years ago in the Colorado Springs Airport: My parents and I were waiting to board our flight back home, and were bored-ly sitting and glancing around to glimpse anything noteworthy (that was me, probably not my parents). All of a sudden people started standing up, and a round of clapping growing into an applause rose from the crowd. A plane had just landed and a troop of soldiers had just arrived at the airport, finally home from service. One by one we saw them exit the door connected to the plane ramp as they entered the airport. Men, women, older, younger, with camo and duffel bags...there were so many. And they kept coming. I believe we stood at least five minutes, and not just my family, everyone. Everyone continued to stand and applaud the soldiers until the final one had disembarked the plane. My mom had tears in her eyes, and everyone was so earnestly respectful. It was one of those moments that felt very real, and tangible, and full of meaning. And the man at the store, reminded me of this moment. I hope he had an honorable welcoming home, too.
In light of all this, I've been encouraged to be much more assertive in expressing my gratitude to any members of the armed service, whether present day or soldiers who served before. And it doesn't matter the government, and if I agree with them, because the armed forces, like our country, is made up of individuals. And these individuals have made many sacrifices physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, socially, etc. to make our lives a little safer and our country a little better. The least we can say, is Thank You.
Pondering and reflecting,