Stand for the Flag and Veterans · 10 November 2011
Recently, I read an article called Why We Serve, by General Colin Powell in Parade magazine. It was a fitting Veterans Day tribute and made me think about veterans I know. They are the ones who still stand for each flag that comes down the road during a parade. They are the ones who still shed a tear listening to the Star Spangled Banner at a football game. They are certainly the ones who paid or are paying the price for freedom. Sometimes with their lives. The article and the approach of Veterans Day made me think that my little individual tributes to veterans I know or meet are not enough for what our fighting men and women do.
A couple years ago, I wrote about my individual thank you tributes to veterans I know and meet. When I find out that people are veterans or active duty military, I still shake their hands, look into their eyes, and thank them for serving. I even try to do that at least once a year to the vets I see every day. It may be corny or seem a bit nationalistic, but it is one small tribute I can do to recognize their willingness to stand in harm’s way for the rest of us. It is not much, but it is one thing I can do to respect them.
Recently, I was getting new tires for my car. While I was at the counter chatting with the person helping me, I heard a man say, “I have been coming here for 31 years and I have always gotten great service.” His comment caught my attention, but when I looked up, it was his hat that kept it.
The words on his hat simply said, “Air Force Veteran.” As I was standing at the counter, I could not help but think that I needed to talk to the vet. I did not know him, but I felt compelled to give him my thanks even though there was no other reason that would lead us into a conversation.
The elder gentleman sat at a counter in the waiting area as I approached him. I told him that I like to thank veterans and active duty military personnel who I meet. He was a bit astonished that I would just come over to thank him. We chatted for a bit and I found out that he had served during the Korean War. He did not really say much else about his service, but that did not really matter. We just had a nice conversation about life and I thanked him again for his service to our country. While my gesture was sincere, it did not seem to be tribute enough.
The day before Veterans Day, we had an assembly at school. It was a tribute to the Veterans at our school and to those related to people at our school. The choir sang the Star Spangled Banner, two veterans spoke, the band played, and slides showed our three veterans on the staff and listed many names of relatives and graduates who have served or still serve. The students sat respectfully and took it all in. I think they even understood what the second speaker meant when he told us all how we could show respect for our veterans. He said that if we stand, remove our hats, and place our right hands over our hearts when the American flag passes by, we will be honoring our veterans. We will be honoring those who have bled and died for freedom.
When the assembly was all over, I made sure to thank our veterans and the two men who spoke. They had all served and were willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the freedoms we often take for granted. Again, it did not seem to be enough just to thank them.
While we might not all shed a tear when the national anthem is played or shake the hands of and thank the veterans we meet, we can all stand and respect the flag which so many have fought to protect. We might not all serve like General Powell or the man I met at the tire store or those who spoke to our students, but we can all honor them. Not with just a day of remembrance, but with a posture of respect for the flag. And a few words of thanks. It might not seem like much, but it is something we all can do.
© 2011 Michael T. Miyoshi
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