3 days ago while my bride and I were en route to a marriage retreat in Ohio's Amish country that we were leading, we stopped at one of our favorite eateries for lunch. Outside the window were the rolling hills and many trees sans leaves any longer. But across the aisle from us was a man, I'm guessing in his early 60s, having lunch with his wife. They weren't talking much and he had little expression. He wore a hat commonly seen in our society, that being of a "Vietnam Veteran." Those along with Korean War Veteran hats are the ones I see most. I'd imagine in several decades, those will be replaced with "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and "Operation Enduring Freedom" hats...and maybe even I'll wear the latter.
Near the end of his lunch and ours, his wife excused herself and he sat there alone, not looking around or anything...just sitting there. My wife also excused herself and I walked over and extended my hand to shake his and only intended on saying "Thank you for your service...and Welcome Home." Not only did he grab my hand, but he nearly knocked over his chair rising from his seat. He mentioned how he saw my haircut and thought maybe I was in the military. (I just got a high-n-tight haircut for Veterans Day) He immediately started to talk as if 40+ years evaporated. He had been drafted at the ripe young age of 18 and was assigned to a landing craft in Vietnam. He talked about how they had to scavenge for scrap wood to build shelter where they'd sleep and how they had "professional thieves" who were fellow soldiers. They'd come back in the middle of the night with needed supplies simply to survive or maybe some "creature comforts." He served two years and never served stateside or wore a "fancy Army uniform" as he called them. As he talked, my wife came back and he continued to talk while his eyes reddened and he fought back the tears and his story turned to talking about his return home to the USA. "Back then," he said, "you didn't dare tell anyone you were over there." Vietnam vets didn't get the Heroes Welcome Home like many of us get today. In an environment of violent protests, serving wasn't looked on favorably at all. After about 20 minutes, we said our goodbyes and I wished him Veterans Day once more.
Those hats...they're everywhere, friends. Can I encourage you to take the initiative to do what I did the next time the opportunity presents itself? It may VERY well happen today...Veterans Day 2013. Today is a day to honor those serving, those who have served, and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
Before I close today and share the 2013 Veterans Day poster which I do every year, I'd like to express my gratitude to my church. It's a hit-n-miss environment these days when it comes to military and churches. Some draw the line and forbid it claiming the "separation of church and state" while others welcome it in. Yesterday, we began our service by saying the Pledge of Allegiance then my daughter sung the National Anthem all by herself...no instruments or anything. Just her and her beautiful voice for the first time ever. I was so proud of her. After that, fellow veterans gathered up front simply for a word of thanks and prayer. It was a great morning with my church family.
Here is the 2013 Veterans Day poster and below it is a screen shot of the posters back to 1978. To see them closer, follow the link below the image.
Happy Veterans Day, friends...and thank you if you have worn the cloth of our great country. It is because of you that I can serve today freely and worship Whom I wish freely, without the fear of persecution. THANK YOU!
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