Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Since 2008, I've been writing on this day and sharing the official Veterans Day poster as published by the Department of Veteran Affairs. You'll find the poster below this paragraph and also here. Today, I have off like every other year. No matter if I'm in uniform or civilian job, it's a free day. Normally, I'm asked to speak at a local school to elementary or middle school students. This year is the first year in many that I wasn't. While I wouldn't turn down that privilege, I also don't mind just relaxing and doing what I'm doing now...sharing some thoughts and spending some time alone and with family.
Today, I started the day off with my new "family" at the Crossfit gym/box and met a new trainer that apparently, is the "runner" of the family there. Turns out that one of the things he likes to do it run trails but mix in burpees, etc. with the run. I let him know I'd be more than happy to join him some day! After the workout (lots of jump roping, burpees, and my first overhead press), I decided to do what I do best....run. I mapped it out and it was about 10 miles home. Given that it's a gorgeous Fall day, I ran home and ended up logging 11 miles. No doubt...my tail is beat! I feel like I can feel every muscle in me, especially with yesterday's focus on squats. For the rest of today, I see it including a stop at Applebee's, my favorite place to eat on this day. While many restaurants offer free meals, they started that movement and my local one really pours out the gratitude. Their staff is passionate about it and there are always lots of veterans from all eras there. It's humbling just to go. My dad, an Army veteran, will join me as well along with my wife. Not too sure we'll hit up another eatery today for dinner or not.

Old Stone Church / Cleveland OH
A few days ago on Friday, I attended a friend's retirement at the Old Stone Church on Public Square in Cleveland. He retired after nearly 21 years of active military service. He is a Mustang like me (prior enlisted and now an officer) and first served as a Navy fireman but became a Navy nurse. Months ago, we sat in my office as he debated whether or not to do any kind of retirement service. He didn't see the point. I told him but one thing: "Do it to honor your wife and kids." So with that, his wheels began turning and months later, Friday, it was a formal affair. With the "Passing of Old Glory" to our master chief echoing "The Watch" in a church founded in 1820, it was a wonderful retirement. The part, though, that got me and will get me on my day, was when he addressed his wife, son, and young daughter who was dressed in blue, gold, and glittery gold shoes, fitting for Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. For those of us who serve and do so alongside our "other half" have a ton of gratitude and appreciation for them. While all relationships and marriages are not good and the military service/lifestyle gets blamed for a high break-up rate, those that endure go through multitude of ups and downs and often reach the brink of a decision...stick it out and give up. For those who keep going, die to self, and love each other, it is absolutely a teamwork approach and the family members not in uniform serve just as much. So when he addressed his wife and his tears began to flow, that gratitude for my own wife flowed rich within me. On Veterans Day, it's just not about those who serve or have served, but for the military spouses and children who have traveled the same road. Yesterday, I saw him again and he only had one thing to say: "Thank you for convincing me to have my retirement." Absolutely, brother! It was a beautiful service. It was also kinda cool that I silently celebrated my own anniversary that day, too...17 years of service. The decision is not that far away for me, too. Stay in, hang it up, and when I do, how do I honor the service and my family for their service as well? I will say...the Old Stone Church in Cleveland is breathtaking. Whether it's a church service, wedding or military retirement...wow.

So as you see flags flying today and social media literally blowing up with posts about this day, please consider keeping the veterans in mind all year round, especially those serving right now far from home while their family keeps the home fire burning. There is a cost for the freedom we enjoy and have so for decades upon decades...and that price continues to be paid 24/7.

Happy Veterans Day and to those who have served or serve today, "Thank you."

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