I want to say thank you to the veteran I barely know.
I mean, I KNOW you and the man you are. I know how you met my mom in church, how you loved her probably from the time you first saw her. I know about your family – your sisters and parents. I know about your wedding day and your marriage. I know about how you have always been there for me. How even when you traveled for work, I always felt your presence. How you have never NOT shown up when I needed you.
I know how you rescued me in high school when I insisted I was too old for our family beach vacation and wanted to stay home….but by day 2 I was missing you guys so bad, you drove 5 hours all the way home just to get me and take me to the beach with the family I learned to never leave again.
I know how you walked me down the aisle and even though I never see you cry, I’m certain I saw a tear well up. I had a lot of tears well up too…most of them fell that day.
I know how when I had my babies, you were there for me at the hospital cheering me on and saying prayers.
I know how you and I have a special bond – our quirky jokes and silly sense of humor. Our love for family…for each other.
And I know you will do just about anything to work out a visit to my house to spend time with me and my girls, your granddaughters each week.
And I know you are a veteran…I know you served in the Vietnam War. I know you just barely missed the draft age cutoff because you were older. I know that had it not been for a fellow soldier who asked to switch barracks with you, you would have died in a bombing while there.
And that’s really about all I know. I know for certain that war changed you. I know it left permanent scars on your heart and memories etched in your mind that you have probably fought your own personal war over for years.
I know that when I was about 8, we took a family trip and visited a Vietnam War memorial and that for the rest of the week, you barely spoke. The memories too much to share. Too horrific to want to remember.
I know that as I’ve gotten older, you’ve shared a few random snippets of your time during the War. Just vague enough to remind me that these are memories of a time that you don’t want to relive.
There were no fun comrades hanging out stories.
These were stories of Hell….Hell on earth.
From the moment you landed there under attack with no weapons of your own – to the horrible welcome home from ungrateful Americans – to today.
And so I don’t pry. I don’t ask more than you want to share. Because I respect you…I know about memories you don’t want to remember.
But on this day, and every day, I want to say thank you. Thank you for what you did. Thank you for serving in a war and bearing the brunt of those memories so that I can have the freedoms I do. Thank you for helping my girls grow up in a different world than what might have been.
Thank you to a man I know – even if I don’t know everything. I know enough – Happy Veteran’s Day Dad.
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