This evening my husband and I went grocery shopping at the only convenient full grocery store in our area. It is only about 3 miles from our home. Most everyone who works there knows us and we often run into friends and neighbors. It serves a large area of those who live around the southeast side of Lake Palestine. There are always a great many new faces each time we shop. Among those faces many are very friendly, as most Texans are, and will speak if your eyes meet, even if it’s just to say, “Hi.” Some will say a lot more and strike up a conversation that’s memorable.
Tonight was one of those times we met someone we didn’t know. He spoke to my husband first about beer consumption. He was joking when he said, “What time is the party?” as my husband put his purchase in the cart. I was busy looking at my list when I looked up to see his broad, handsome grin. I noticed he was in a powered wheelchair with an American flag and a black Army crest flag wrapped around poles which were about 3 feet above his head, mounted behind the seat. Then I saw a gold insignia of an Army infantry officer on his jacket. I looked down towards his legs and there were two artificial limbs. He had lost both legs. As the conversation broke and he was wheeling away, I said, “Thank you for your service.” He thanked me. But as he left I felt my words were just not enough. My mind began to perseverate on what would have had more meaning. Should I have said, “Thank you for my freedom?”, “Thank you for your sacrifice?”, I finally decided sometimes words just aren’t enough.
I’m old enough to have, and have had, loved ones and friends who served in Vietnam. It still breaks my heart how some in this country actually were waiting at airports to spit on them if they were seen in uniform coming home. I don’t believe many ever heard the words “Welcome home” from anyone outside their family until the last few years. Some famous people like “Hanoi Jane” (a.k.a. Jane Fonda) inflamed a rhetoric which spread like wildfire. But our government also had its share of guilt by the lies which were told to everyone including our disillusioned soldiers. Every male and female who served went there to serve honorably. A few lost their morals and their judgement because they learned the enemy was extremely hard to identify at times and witnessing the brutal loss of their “brothers” instilled an anger and hatred that got out of control. But those few did not represent the majority who gave all they could with dignity and honor. There are over 58,000 names on the Vietnam memorial wall. I have no idea how many suffered disabling injuries of body or mind. I’m sure the number is many times 6 digits.
Thank the Lord our society has changed. Even those who vehemently oppose war do not seem to disrespect those who protect us. I can’t think of one person I know that likes the thought of war, but the words, “Thank you for your service,” are heard frequently where I live. Most understand the stark reality there are those who hate America and seek to destroy her along with all democratic societies and even some that are not democratic. Their ideology has reached our mainland and caused horrific murder of innocents here starting with 9/11/2001. We depend on our men and women who bravely serve. I’m glad today we recognize them.
I’ll remember this happy, friendly veteran we met tonight for the warmth he exuded, despite his extreme injuries, for a long time. It will also help me remember those I love who have been through war and carry it always though they don’t show it. And when I remember, I’ll realize, while I sleep, there are thousands around the world tonight keeping me, my family, my friends, and America free and safe.
© copyright Dec 21, 2017…..Phyllis Rogers