Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day 2009

I walked into the school gymnasium and as my eyes scanned the room taking in red, white and blue decorations dripping with glitter, glue and "thank you's" scrawled by chubby hands, I started furiously swallowing the hard lump in my throat that had suddenly appeared. And through teary eyes, I only dimly saw the old men in faded uniforms pinned with once-bright ribbons who held the hands of their white-haired sweethearts. As we all faced the enormous flag on the wall, hands over beating hearts, I managed to utter about every other phrase : "I pledge allegiance . . .and to the republic. . .one nation, under God (really choked here) . . . with liberty . . . for all." And someone could have probably mopped me up off the floor as the preschoolers belted out a surprisingly good "God Bless America." When we were asked to sing on the second round, stronger voices joined the chorus, but mine was not one of them, although I did manage to croak out a few words . . ."my home sweet home." I could not love Miss Pam, the principal, more for getting choked up as she dismissed the children and said thank you to the veterans and had the kids hand out homemade thank you cards to everyone there.

As I surveyed this Rockwellian scene, I couldn't help but think that sixty-some years ago, these men and women, young and fresh, were flung far afield charged with the mission of saving the world. And for all the gratitude I carry in my heart, I couldn't help but wish that we had more to offer by way of thanks than an annual lunch in the gym, some shy thanks, a sweetly-sung song and a teary pledge. But the very nature of the folks dubbed "the greatest generation" dictates that this is enough and it is why as I pulled out of the parking lot, I had tears streaming down my cheeks because a proud white haired man wearing the uniform of II Corps (North Africa unit) waved and smiled at me as I drove away.

Thank you, veterans of World War I. You fought in one of the worst conflicts the world has ever seen and overcame.

Thank you, veterans of World War II. You did nothing less than save the world.

Thank you, veterans of the Korean War. What you sacrificed is not forgotten.

Thank you, veterans of the Vietnam conflict. We ARE proud of you and your service.

Thank you, veterans of Desert Storm. You answered when duty called.

Thank you, veterans of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. My children sleep safely in their beds at night because you are not sleeping in yours.

Thank you, veterans of all of the other conflicts -- Bosnia, Grenada, Somalia and the myriad of other places where Americans have been on the ground righting wrongs and fighting evil.

Thank you, families of service men and women. You have lent America your very best.

Never have so many owed so much to so few. You are heroes. God bless.