Friday, November 12, 2010

Veterans Day

There is a time one must praise corporations for doing the right thing. 
Today, I am giving a big shout out to Applebee's.
The last few years they have given out millions of free meals to Veterans on November 11.

Yesterday being the 11th, Big Daddy and I decided to go out to Applebee's on a date.
It helps that he eats for free, makes the date cost less :)

Last night we got there after 7 pm to eat....  the place was packed.  There were decorations and balloons outside in red, white and blue.  All the servers wore red, white and blue.  The place was crawling with managers, I think they were all there... and of course there were Veterans.  There were some WWII Vets, Korean War Vets, Vietnam Vets, Gulf War, Iraqi Freedom....  The list goes on.... you name the war, action, or conflict, there was someone there to represent it.  As we sat down,  a guy at the table behind us, loudly asked, " Are you a Seabee?"

Jody's head whipped around.  He said, "Yeah."
and so began our meeting with this Army Engineer, who had worked with Seabees in a Special Operation in Belize.  He told us all about how the Seabees were better at building stuff than his Army Corps of Engineer guys.  We found out that he was in for 12 year active duty, and then went Reserve until retirement at 20 years.  He told us about his brother's Warrant Officer commissioning before he retired. Story upon story spilled forth from him, with an urgency, as if he were afraid that no one would remember these important things, if he didn't share them NOW! 

Jody listened to him with an air of respect.  Between these two men who had never met before, there was an unspoken bond.  There was the understanding of the horror of what happens in combat.  Between them both was the ache of the things unshared, the way a quiet night, is never really quiet anymore.  I got the sense from this man that he just wanted to be heard, that he just wanted to share some stories with someone that had been there.  I got the feeling as I listened to them share the names of places they had been, that every Veteran desires the same thing, to be heard, to be acknowledged, appreciated.

As our new friend left, I was able to look around the room and see who was there. 

There was a older man sitting alone at the bar.  He was dressed in his  Dress Green Uniform (Army).  He had 2 stripes.  It was just him and his beer.  The instant our eyes connected, I smiled at him.  The smile he returned was soft, slow, and sad.  I ached for him to be sitting there alone.  Five minutes later he was gone.....  I bet he just wanted someone to remember with him.

Soon there was a flash of a camera that caught my eye.  It was the bartender taking a picture for someone.  He handed the camera back to a young man who was sitting with his grandfather.  In stark contrast to the lonely Captain, there was a familial ease.  The younger was listening to stories from times gone by, learning  about life from the wisdom of a life lived where death has been faced and overcome.

As I watched the people come and go through the time we were there, I couldn't help but begin to wonder what each of their personal stories were.  Who were they before battle?   How did it change them?  As I walk beside my husband, I notice that when someone thanks him for his service, a sad sort of smile crosses his face.  It is as if the thank you, triggers a memory, one that is too sad to share.  I have seen the same look from other Veterans when I have thanked them.  I think the next time I thank one, I will ask them to tell me a story, to share with me a memory.  My willingness to listen, might be the difference for one lonely soldier, who feels that no one understands.

Thank you again to Applebee's and your willingness to honor the men and women who serve our country.  Thank you for providing a place for them to come, and see others like themselves, who have served and survived.

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