It struck me today that I’ve had two very distinct interactions with veterans. OK, I’ve had a ton, but there were two very different experiences I’ve had, and both memories came to me tonight. It sometimes feels like older vets have more dignity, understanding and appreciation for life. Either way, if you get the chance to tell a vet thank you, whether young or old, combat tried or REMF, fact is… they all served in their own way. That being said, this is a specific request that you take time, not just once a year on Veterans Day, to show some love especially to the older WWII or Korean War age vets. This is not to take away from the younger crowed or those currently serving, my hat is off to you too.
This writing is based on a couple of different experiences I’ve had…
Show some love to the Vets… Especially to older ones
Sam is an old man standing that stance, shoulders hunched over, wrinkled forehead as he peers out his window into the street.
He sees the neighborhood kids playing their games of jump rope, hop scotch or tag and as he watches, his mind wanders back to that chaotic trench where the blood of Joe slowly oozed through his fingers as he watched the life drain from Joe’s eyes.
Sam closed his eyes. He could feel the warm, sticky nature of the blood as if he were still there.
There was nothing Sam could do but try to comfort Joe as bullets whizzed overhead and moans and groans filtered in through his ears to find a home in the grooves of his brain.
He shakes his head lightly pushing out the memories, at least for now, and finds the children are all gone. How long had he been standing there, Joe pulling him back to the war.
Smokes didn’t kill Joe, nor drunk driving and definitely not old age.
Joe died fighting to…
Make a better life for the kids Sam watches? If so, do they have a clue?
Save his own life… an unsuccessful mission if that was his goal.
Save his fellow soldiers… Sam shook his head again and sighed… he was still alive.
Who knows… was he drafted, did he sign up on his own? Does it matter?
He gave the ultimate sacrifice and so many just blow right through Veterans Day.
Time for a walk…
Sam slides on his shoes, buttons his sweater and grabs his cane.
It’s a slow pace down the three front stairs of his meager house, his leg never did heal correctly, and then down the road he heads.
Flip to Billy…
He’s young, sitting there on the front porch, in his mid to late twenty something, hat cocked back on his head.
And everyone knows it
It’s all he talks about
It’s his life, his only identity…
He did four years in the Army… all in places where weapons were never fired, bombs never dropped, grenades never thrown, but somehow, that never comes up. Combat, under fire, frontline, pointy end of the spear all words and phrases he knows well, but they never applied to him… but he “was there” and you should hear how he stuck it to his first sergeant and how he kicked ass in such and such a bar, and, and, and. In his mind, he IS the man and he’s too tough to return the friendly wave of a neighbor. He has bombs all over the place… F’Bombs that is… he’s tough, remember?
Back to Sam…
Sam gets about half way down the street and pauses. Looks around, pulls his hat down a bit and his light blue sweater, with the cigarette burned hole in it, a little tighter. He waits but there’s no movement, so he ventures on.
You see Sam in the distance… you’re taking in your last bag of groceries… decision time. Common’… it’ll only take a few minutes. Wave at Sam, it’ll encourage him to keep walking. Leave the trunk open, an indication you’ll be back. Hurry in with that bag, put away the perishables. Then come back out and make the effort to give a few minutes of your life to help a vet enjoy his.
Sometimes they like to talk about the war… indulge them, it’s all some of them have left. And stop and take in the fact that you’re getting history from someone who was there. What an awesome gift!
Remember Billy… Don’t give up on him. Keep waiving. Eventually, he may come around and then again, he may not. But you won’t know until you try. If you do get that chance, listen to him as well. He may have some portion of him that needs validation. But, ask him about current and future things as well. You may help him move beyond the need.
The point is, make an effort and tell a vet thanks. It’s not about whether or not you agree(d) with the war, it’s about the person walking down the street or sitting on the front porch. He or she sacrificed a large portion of their being (mental, physical, spiritual, and/or emotional) and they could use a little bit of your time. Know someone who has a kid, spouse, parent or other family member or friend currently serving? Tell them thanks and ask them to pass along your appreciation to the service member for the sacrifices they are making.
Give them a few minutes of your life! Some of them gave minutes that felt like days that felt like months that felt like years that consumed a life. Others signed up with that as a possibility.
Take a breath and head down your sidewalk to give them some appreciation. Give them the satisfaction of knowing that someone took the time and made the effort to break out of their life, their shell, to say thank you for your service and sacrifices. Look them in the eye, shake their hand and listen to them.
Don’t just do it on Veterans’ Day, do it when there’s nothing compelling you to.
Stephen Kellogg – 2010