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Veteran’s Day…

November 10, 2015
This is the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day.  Photo from yahoo.

This is the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Photo from yahoo.

Hey Ya’ll,

One of my least favorite times of the year is this week. I really don’t like Veteran’s Day and all the things that go with it. On the front of my truck, I have a yellow license plate from my former squadron in Charleston, WV. Otherwise, I don’t wear any clothing that advertises that I was in the Air Force. I don’t have any bumper stickers celebrating that I was in Afghanistan or Iraq. I don’t have any tattoos remembering that time of my life either. I do have some pictures on the computer and occasionally, I will share them on here. But generally speaking, I don’t go out of my way to tell someone I don’t know that I served. When I do share that knowledge, it is on my own terms and on my own timing kind of like this article.

Sunday at Church, the pastor asked that all the veterans stand up for the preverbal recognition from those in attendance. I sat still until my wife very nicely reminded me that I needed to stand up. I have never liked being recognized for serving in the military. In 2003, my wife’s church was having a special service to recognize those who were serving and my wife asked me to go and wear my uniform. That was just about the last thing I wanted to do, so I conned my buddy Billy G. into going with me. It didn’t make it any better, but I was glad to have him there.

A year or so later, he and I were returning from a rotation over there. We didn’t know it, but the local TV station reporter was doing a story about our return. They were following my wife and Billy’s wife around before we arrived, they wanted to video our wives greeting us when we got off the airplane and then they were going to interview us all for a couple minutes of fame on the nightly news. Billy and I had no idea all this was going on when we landed. As our wives ran up to us, I saw a camera man out of the corner of my eye. I ignored him and embraced my wife, when I opened my eyes he was standing right there recording it. We were taught that we didn’t have to be video recorded if we didn’t want to be and that the media people knew that if we asked to not be recorded, then they had to honor our wishes. In the middle of the embrace, I told him to stop filming me but he didn’t drop the camera. I got irate and told him with some language that was not polite to turn the camera off. He reluctantly did and moved over to Billy. My wife got rather upset that I was not being pleasant with the camera guy and she explained that she was part of the story. I don’t remember what I said but it wasn’t the ideally romantic reunion. Later that night, we watched Billy on television and laughed about it so all was okay.

A few years ago my daughter’s second grade teacher, Ms. P, found out that I was a veteran. One day at pick-up time, Ms. P asked me if I would be willing to come into the class room and talk to the students about Veteran’s Day. I really didn’t want to do it, but since I would be talking to my daughter’s class I was going to do it. Surprisingly, it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the interaction with the kids. Every year since, Ms. P asked me to come into her class again and talk to the kids. It wasn’t long before I reverted to my find a buddy technique. Now I take some friends with me each year, I call it show and tell.

I tell the following stories so you know that I am consistent in my uncomfortableness with Veteran’s Day. I don’t mind people thanking me and I don’t mind people going out of their way to say something nice. I am glad that people take time to remember the veterans and I am pleased that we as a nation take pride in our neighbors, friends and family members who served. If I were to be honest with myself, I think that I don’t like the recognition is because I didn’t serve to be recognized. I didn’t serve to protect the constitution and I didn’t serve to risk my life for freedom. Everything I did in the military was because it was something I wanted to do. It was a very selfish time for me and I was seeking adventure as a member of the military. One of the reasons I got out at thirteen years was because there was no more adventure to be found for me. There were no more dragons to be slain and I was out of the business of rescuing fair maidens.

Before you write me off as a grumpy old man, I do find great pleasure in helping other veterans have a great Veteran’s Day. Once again this year, Ms. P asked me to come to her class and talk to the class. I called up two Marines and one Air Force veteran to go with me. These men are from different sections of my world, they have never met each other and any other group of men, it might be uncomfortable. But they bonded on the drive to the school, asking each other where they served, when they served and all those types of questions. Twenty minutes later, they were fast friends. We spent about an hour with the kids as they asked all kinds of great questions. Afterwards, I took my hired veterans out to lunch and had another veteran meet us there. The fourth veteran was Bert C., a Marine who fought in Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands in World War II. Bert is 94 years old and while being relatively healthy, he doesn’t get around so well so he has a lady who is his caregiver during the day. His presence in the restaurant was the best part of the day for me and I think the other veterans too.

Happy Marine Corp birthday, November 10, 2015. Roger M. 5th Infantry Battalion Vietnam 1966-1968.  Bert C. 1st Infantry Battalion Guadalcanal 1942-1944, Will M. 2nd Infantry Battalion Camp Lejeune 1995-2000. photo from rob akers

Happy Marine Corp birthday, November 10, 2015. Roger M. 5th Infantry Battalion Vietnam 1966-1968. Bert C. 1st Infantry Battalion Guadalcanal 1942-1944, Will M. 2nd Infantry Battalion Camp Lejeune 1995-2000. photo from rob akers

I tell this story to help explain what veterans want most tomorrow. Of course, I don’t want to speak for every veteran but I am speaking for myself and you can assume it will earn the respect of other veterans. Words of thanks are great and we all need verbal encouragement. But what really counts is taking the time to write a short letter of thanks, or buying them a coffee at the gas station or Starbucks, or even buying their meal. Tomorrow is one of the few days of the year that you will not find me in a restaurant because of the commotion that is Veteran’s Day. But if you want to make an impression on some day other than Veteran’s Day if you see a guy in a military hat or driving a can with a sticker on it; buy him a cup of coffee. If you must do something tomorrow to celebrate the day, take the time to write a real live letter to a veteran; That will be more memorable to them than a kind word on November 11th.

Just 51 dollars to buy four hours of great memories. That is a great way to spend some money. From right to left. Dave W, Air Force, Roger C. Army, Bert C. Marines, Roger M. Marines, Rob Akers Air Force, kneeling Will M. Marines.  photo from rob akers.

Just 51 dollars to buy four hours of great memories. That is a great way to spend some money. From right to left. Dave W, Air Force, Roger C. Army, Bert C. Marines, Roger M. Marines, Rob Akers Air Force, kneeling Will M. Marines. Bert’s caregiver, Christina was kind enough to take the picture for us. photo from rob akers.

I am enclosing a link to an article my friend Padre Steve wrote yesterday about Veteran’s Day. I think it is the most honest description about the day that I have ever read. https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/770114/858207004

Until next time, keep on rockin.

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15 Comments
  1. Great photos! A letter? You’re talking my language. That’s precisely why I compiled Words For Warriors (with your help). That way a veteran can take it away and look it over at leisure. I love the written word. Sometimes spoken words just float away on the wind. I’m anxiously looking forward to the next printing. I ran out of books and I just gave my personal copy away a couple of weeks ago. I will re-order soon so I can give some more out around Christmas. Thank you for helping me make that project come true!!

    Wishing you a good day tomorrow and every other day too!

    • Doc,

      It was a honor and a privilege to be a part of that project. Even better is the opportunity to know there are people in the nation like yourself who will do more than go shopping on Veteran’s Day.

      Best wishes to you and your family as well.

  2. Thanks for your take on the day. So many varied viewpoints from those who served. Usually the reason people go into the service, isn’t the reason they stay, but veterans do form a bond, that no other career can create.

    • Thanks for the comments Sandy. I almost didn’t write this article at all because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so honest.

      But I knew that I wanted to talk about my friends and how important it is to recognize them.

      It was a tough decision but I had to go brutally honest because if you tell the truth, good things happen.

    • Sandy,

      Thank you for the warm comments. I appreciate your understanding. I wish you and all your family all the best.

  3. Bob Akers permalink

    Rob, General MacArthur said… “Duty, honor, Country”… very noble words, but how many men and women who have served in the military actually did so because of those worthy ideals? I would guess that 99.9% did not, maybe most out of duty, but few for honor and country. If that is true, does it make those who served for whatever reason, due less appreciation for their service? I don’t think so. Because no matter how or why one is put into the military, the fact that they do what they are obligated to do is worthy of my and all others respect and thanks. Your quote of Patton is quite right about how most dealt with war especially. My uncle Clyde Rhea served in Patton’s Army in the Infantry in WWII. He landed in France after D Day and fought up to the Battle of the Bulge where he ended up in hospital with frozen feet. He was no hero, but yet in one sense he was. He did what he did to survive and in some ways protect the survival of the men he served with. My dad, your grandfather, also served in WWII and did everything he could to stay off the front lines of battle. Did that make him less of a veteran? No, I don’t think so, he was married with two kids and just wanted to do what he had to do in order to go back home. Yet, he went where he had to go and did what he had to do, just like everyone else did, the only difference was what each one was told not what they wanted to do, but did it anyway. Whatever your reasons were for entering the military don’t matter. What matters is, you did what you had to do afterwards. That, in my opinion is why the country celebrates veterans day, its to honor veterans for their service, but not to make them heroes. And I don’t mean we shouldn’t have a greater appreciation for those who suffered more as heroes, because they do deserve special thanks. But, the day is not confined to just those few, it would be a greater disservice not to honor every veteran for their duty. You need to learn to accept my and others thanks for your service! If you do, you are setting an example to your family and others, that you don’t have to be a hero to serve, but you did your duty and thats all anyone is expected to do. Love, Dad

    >

    • Dad,

      Thank you for talking about Clyde and Granddad. Their time serving was tough, much tougher than anything I ever did. I know you didn’t forget to mention the service of Uncle Mike or Cousin Jeff, or Cousin Michelle’s sons or Uncle Jimmy and the others in the family that I have forgotten. The mention of their service just didn’t fit into the flow of your comment. I think one thing that I am proud of is that I was able to continue the tradition of service in the military for our family.

      Just a observation, maybe the apple (me) didn’t fall that far from the tree (you). You didn’t say anything about your time wearing the uniform. I guess you just forgot to throw that little nugget out there.

      Happy Veteran’s Day to you Dad.

  4. Cedarglen permalink

    Thank you, Capt. Bob. Frankly, I share most of your views in that I’d prefer to avoid public recognition of my own service. I remain proud of my time in uniform, but only as one of millions. Every time it comes up, I cannot help but remember the brothers (and sisters) who did not return, or returned as something less than whole. Furthermore, the one federal agency charged with providing some measure of support for the now incomplete souls is obviously the worst-run organization within the federal system; been there and done that. (I departed briskly the instant I understood that the VA could not deliver and in most cases did Not Wish to Deliver.)

    As much as I dislike wearing the uniform or any form of public acknowledgment, I also recognize that the annual November day is our nation’s public way for the others to express what ever feelings they may have. Giving them one more day won’t hurt us, so we tolerate it.

    Trivia or Not?? Sometime after my own service was concluded, I learned that at every Sunday service and every special service during my entire 6+ years in uniform, my home church included a spoken request for prayer on my behalf, asking God to protect me. I guess it worked! When I eventually learned about the weekly mentions, often including a singing of our National Anthem, I was a genuine wreck for the entire day. (For a stayed old, conservative congregation of stuffy Episcopalians, that was above and beyond the norm.)

    For those and similar reasons, I continue to tolerate Veteran’s Day celebrations, usually as a mute bystander. IMHO, we owe it to those who offer their thanks to accept them with quiet, very humble grace.

    Thank you, Capt. Bob for your own service. For the vast majority of us who made it home in reasonably good condition, our years of service are probably remembered as one of life’s highlights.
    -Craig (of Cedarglen)

    • Craig,

      Thank you so much for the very kind comment. I really don’t know what to say except thank you.

      I try to act all cool on the outside, but I can become an emotional wreck at the drop of a dime when I see people who really care and who are willing to risk violating some old time tradition to honestly and openly pray for the safety of a man they may or may not know.

      There has been so much debate about every war the USA has ever fought that it probably become the number one national pastime since 1776. But those people in the Church that you described put away their personal views on the war and they all focused on you specifically and your safe return. WOW! What a great story about what we really value as a nation.

      Thank you for your service Craig. Please don’t be a stranger, make yourself at home.

      rob

  5. Karlene permalink

    Rob, love this and stole your photo but honored you!!! Thank you for a great read.
    Happy Veteran’s Day!! http://karlenepetitt.blogspot.com/2015/11/happy-veterans-day.html

    • Karlene,

      Thank you for the comment. About stealing the photo, I don’t think it can be considered stealing when you tell the person you too from that you took it. But I am not a lawyer so I could be wrong.

      Use the picture as you like.

      • Karlene permalink

        Rob, That’s a good point. And, thus… break in. “You honor, I told them I was stealing there stuff… so does that count?” Could be an excellent defense point.

  6. Rob, thank you for this post. I know some others feel the same way. Thank you for your service today and always. I have a feeling you will like how I celebrated – this morning I adopted a deployed troop and wrote him a letter 🙂

    • Hey everybody, its Gina!

      Thank you for stopping by this little corner of the web to say hi. I am so glad that you got a boy. If you don’t know what I’m referring too, please go to Gina’s site and see what amazing things that she is dedicated too doing.

      You are absolutely the best friend a deployed solider could ever have. When I think of what you do, I am reminded of the Greatest Commandment. “Love God with all your heart, strength, mind and soul. And Love your neighbor as yourself.” I know it is a scary thought, but I can think of no better example of this that what you do. Thank you.

  7. Our son, before he could read, always asked me if he thought someone might be wearing a veteran hat. If yes, he’d say, “thank you for your service,” and salute. He got a lot of smiles. Now he’s a little older and in Cub Scouts and does the Scout salute. Cutest thing ever, my future Marine.

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