I’m afraid I wasn’t really thinking about veterans as I made my way to the parade that year.
My husband’s friend was our city councilman, and he asked my husband if he could drive him in our oldest son’s convertible for the Veteran’s Day parade. As I drove the kids downtown to “see Daddy” and “see Jeremy’s car,” I was thinking of finding a parking place where there wasn’t too much traffic and where there was a restroom nearby in case any of us needed one, wondering whether I should get out the folding chairs from the back of the van and whether we’d need sweaters. I found a suitable place near the end of the parade route, and we scrambled out of the van to line up on the sidewalk.
As we listened to the marching bands and saw the waving city officials, I noticed a man in a wheelchair next to us with a woman I assume was his daughter. He was a veteran, as evidenced by his uniform jacket and VFW hat. I noticed other old men scattered here and there throughout the few attendees with at least a VFW or uniform hat, some with full uniform on, some in wheelchairs or with canes.
I knew, of course, that Veteran’s Day is observed to honor those who have fought to defend our country. But seeing those uniforms up and down the street really brought it home. They weren’t just out to spend a few minutes of time on a day off. They were out to honor and support each other and their country as they always had.
I felt like I should turn to the man in the wheelchair next to me and say, “Thank you.” I didn’t, but I wish I had.
I do now. I appreciate and thank the veterans and those currently serving as well as the families they leave behind in order to protect and defend the rest of us. They continue serving even after they come home: seven veterans who did not know my father or the rest of our family honored him as a brother with a 21-gun salute at his funeral. One of the most poignant images at my father-in-law’s funeral was the salute from his fellow veterans.
Thank you. It doesn’t seem enough just to say it, but it is heartfelt. Thank you.