Happy memorial day everyone! I would like to share an experience that I had this past weekend.
As many may know, my father is a Vietnam veteran, he served in the army for two years, and then went back as military police. I am so proud of him and what he has done for his country, and he was wise enough to distill in me a love for my country that I will be forever grateful for. This last weekend there was a festival where I live, little stalls lined the street with vendors selling everything you can imagine. As I walked the street I noticed an older gentleman with a very familiar hat selling handmade flower poppies to the passersby. He was a veteran, my father has a ball cap very similar to his, most veterans do. Looking on, not one person stopped, as I got closer I heard him say "Buy a poppy and support our veterans", Without a moments hesitation I walked over to the man and gave him some money in exchange for the bright red flower. As he handed me the flower and started to turn I stopped him and thanked him for his service, he mumbled a short reply and turned and left, by the look on his face he seemed unsure how to reply. I realized then, that he is someone's father, husband and son, and. I know how grateful I am to someone who will stop my father and thank him for his service to this great country, the tears in his eyes say it all.
The next day I met another man at the hotel I work at, he had another hat on, though his said WWII veteran. I asked him about his service and then said thank you, he stopped and looked at me and said "that's not something people say very much" I replied telling him "Well it's something you should hear more often". I smiled at him and went back to work, having the rest of the day to ponder on what just happened.
On Sunday night I had the opportunity to watch the national memorial day concert with my parents, as we sat there I turned to my father, the man who raised me, who grounded me when I got into trouble, and who would tickle when I needed to laugh, I saw tears in his eyes, I wondered what was going through his mind. I thought of all of the friends that he lost, dying at his side, fighting for a cause that so many were condemning back home. I thought of the hell known as war that he lived through, I took a moment and tried to picture it for myself, but I knew that all of the action movies I had ever seen could never do it justice. As I stared at this great man before me, a new sense of gratitude filled my heart, he lived through all of that, and was still my father. He found the courage to get up every morning, to live his life, and to help so many people around him. To me, that is one of the greatest examples of bravery and courage I have ever seen.
Many people may not understand what veterans go through, but I've lived with one for nineteen years, I've seen the health problems that he's suffered from the chemicals used in Vietnam, I've seen the affects of PTSD, and I've witnessed the frustration over those who still don't consider not only his sacrifice, but the sacrifice of his comrades who fell fighting by his side, as great as other war veterans. I've talked with him about his return home, how he almost didn't even make it out, and how when he got off of the plane, people who didn't have any idea what he went through, and never would, spit on him and called him a murderer. Yet this great man, gets up every morning, goes to a job where he helps people, and still has enough strength left to be an amazing father at the end of the day.
I'm sure there are many more like me out there who have felt feelings such as these, and to them, I know it would mean the world if their fathers and mothers were thanked for the service given to their country. So please, on memorial day, don't just honor the dead, but thank the living, for they are those who must live on with those memories forever in their minds and hearts.
So thank you dad, I love you. I am so proud of you, and I am so grateful for your service and sacrifice. Some of the proudest moments in my life have been on your arm when we walk into a room and you are wearing your veterans hat, when they play the armed forces medley and you stand to honor your branch, or when a flag passes and I know that my father has fought for that flag and all that it stands for. Thank you daddy! I love you! And you will always be my hero.