“Thank you for your service.”
I was traveling back from a week-long conference. I’d been on my feet for three days straight. I’d signed my book for dozens of folks in our booth. Up late every night dining with old & new friends. It was a fabulous time – AND – I was ready to head home. However, mechanical problems with the aircraft caused our flight to be delayed three hours.
I’m pretty stoic about these delays. Nothing I can do about it; no action on my part will make the plane get here sooner. I glanced around the gate area and noticed an active military member in uniform awaiting the same flight to Denver.
I walked up to him, put out my hand, and said, “Thank you for your service to our country.” He shook my hand and smiled, then said, “Thank you.” I found I was unable to say anything more as I was a little choked up. I patted him on the shoulder and headed back to my seat.
I thought back to my college days in the early 70′s when returning veterans of the Vietnam war were NOT received kindly. Those men and women gave their all when their country asked them to serve. Some did not return home alive from that war. Those that did were not always graciously thanked.
The photo above is of the US Navy honor guard folding the flag at my delightful Dad‘s funeral service early this month. Dad was a US Navy veteran of WWII. Those returning vets found ticker-tape parades, hearty hugs, handshakes, jobs, home loans, and more. These benefits and much more were well deserved!
Dad is interred at the National Veterans Cemetery in Riverside, CA. His brother, Harry Edmonds, who also served in the US Navy during WWII, is interred there, too. Dad wanted to be with his brother – when the time came.
Sobering was the information I learned when we were scheduling Dad’s service. The Riverside National Cemetery hosts 30-35 services PER DAY, Monday through Friday. Many of these services are for active military members who were killed in current conflicts. Family members of these veterans are comforted knowing that their grateful country provides final resting places at no cost.
AND, we can do better for our active service members and their families. A recent U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled in favor of two veterans’ associations who sued the Department of Veterans Affairs for its treatment of mentally ill vets. You can read the decision here. We’re working at providing services for injured veterans more quickly. And, we’re not doing right by all veterans, yet.
We, as a country, are better than this. We must focus efforts to remove any hurdles to prompt, top quality, and efficient services for veterans and their families.
On this Memorial Day in the USA, I offer prayers of thanks for past service by our veterans and prayers of safekeeping for our active military personnel in harms way.
Beyond that, there is something each one of us can do. When you see an active service member, stop them for a minute and just say, “Thank you for your service.” That personal connection, that two minute interaction, can make a huge difference to a veteran.