We all say thank you~

Handsome Husband is retired Air Force.  He served long and honorably and retired as a Master Sgt-you know-the non coms that actually do the work for the officers?  In our early years together, he was gone a lot of the time on work related trips, called TDYs.  That stands for “temporary duty station”.   It was a stressful time-there was so much going on around the world, and he could never tell me where he was going, or when he’d be back, or what he was up to.  I’d watch the news for trouble spots and figure, yep, he’s probably there.  I don’t know that he ever really took an oath of, I don’t know, keeping his mouth shut, but, Pentagon and the Powers That Be?  He’s kept his mouth shut and I’ve heard nary a word about anything he ever did, or anywhere he went.   Bottom line, he’s earned his stripes.  Literally.

So, on this Veterans Day, we joined ranks with thousands and more, to go out to supper at one of the many restaurants that offer free meals to veterans today.  There are so many places now that participate in this offering, and they do a great job of it.  Applebees sets up a  “missing man” table at their entrance with a full setting, remembering those who are MIA or POWs.   Its very touching.

Handsome Husband and I joined the long line surging towards the Golden Corral here in Phoenix, AZ.

There were so many people that everyone was being seated cafeteria-style.  Which pushes my comfort zone, because I don’t necessarily care to sit with total strangers while dining, but sometimes its good to have comfort zones pushed and expanded, as I’ve often said.  And that is how we came to be sitting at the table with Joe, a Vietnam vet.   Conversation flowed after we introduced ourselves, as he and Handsome Husband shared military stories, and I told him about my dad’s Honor Flight. I found myself gazing about me, at the astounding numbers of people, the majority of them veterans, and its difficult to name the emotion that filled my heart.   That DC weekend, for my dad’s Honor Flight, deepened the feeling of awe and respect in me for any active duty and past veterans.  The respect has always been there, but now?   Just deeper is all I can say.  And what I wanted to do was go around to each and every one of the tables and shake the hand of every military member there, and say thank you.  They all deserve much more than this, but this is good.  Businesses are doing their part.  As Handsome said ” I don’t know that this is worth getting shot at, but its nice.”

As we were eating our many times filled plates, an older man entered the restaurant.  He was in an Army uniform, and in a wheelchair.   Not because of anything other than age-he had to be in his 80’s or 90’s even.  I could almost feel the energy in the room change as he passed by each table, and then ours, and both Handsome and Joe were quickly scanning his sleeves, counting the hash marks, longevity stripes and rank.  He was a Master Sgt, Army, wearing a Calvary hat (just like in the old movies with horses), and his sleeves told the bare facts of his service.  I wish I could have spoken to him, and discovered his story.  We had to settle for this:  he had 16 hash marks on his right sleeve, each one denoting 6 months in combat.  Do the math. That’s 8 years.  In combat.  His right sleeve had 10 longevity stripes, denoting at least 30 years active duty.  His calvary hat told us that he was in the 1st Calvary.  There was definitely a story there.  The respect as he wheeled by was palpable.  I wanted to stand up and salute him, for what I saw, but more, for what I didn’t see.   Meet one of our veterans to whom we owe so much~I guess I didn’t realize that I know  so many veterans, and active duty.   And I’ve spent the day looking at pictures of them.  Here are some of their names:  Chuck D (my husband!) Stuart L Miller (my dad), Les Blodgett (my uncle), Harvey Dunning (my uncle), Ken Miller (my uncle), Phil S. (my father-in-law), Father Bob R. (a family friend), Father Van Dyke (a family friend), Ken M. (my oldest brother), Robert M.(my younger brother), Steve D. (my brother-in-law), Nate B.(my nephew, currently serving), Larry A. (a friend), Amanda B. (a friend, currently serving), Tyler P., (a friend’s son), Jesse R. (a friend, currently serving), Thomas H. (a friend),  Steve K., (my brother-in-law), Marsha S.,(my sister-in-law), Joma (a friend’s son, currently serving), the men of the Guyre family (all related to 2 friends), James S. (a friend’s husband, currently serving), Dan R. (a friend’s son-in-law, currently serving), Gordon R., (my son’s friend, currently serving), dads and brothers of my friends:  John M., Hank B., William D., Tony Jr., Anthony B., Samuel B., Mr. S., (a Purple Heart recipient), and all of Handsome Husband’s former rank and file: Don C., Rick  and Athena M., Marv  T., Kenny C., Jon W.,-the list is endless.  I’m sure you all, dear readers, know many veterans, and, because I know any and all of my readers are people who “get it”, I’m sure you’ve shaken many a hand today, or called, or sent cards and emails to those you know.  If you haven’t yet, you still can.  Just tell them you’re working on Arizona time (its not even midnight)!

I don’t use the word “hero” loosely.  And I know not every veteran is a hero, in that he/she hasn’t gone in and done amazing, life-saving things.  But the very fact that so many of the people in my life, and those I’ve met in recent times, stood up and took an oath, and swore to protect my country, and put up with the sh*t while doing so, well, that puts them pretty damn high in my book.  So, ladies and gentlemen who put on that uniform and served, I thank you, and we, as a nation, say thank you.  We owe you much. 

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