Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thank You For Your Service!

Nuggets For The Noggin
"Thank You For Your Service!"
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, November 11, 2013

My grandson invited me to take part in his elementary school's tribute to the Veteran relatives of the kids in his school.  Today was the day, Veterans Day.

Initially I had my reservations as his school is about 45 minutes away and in all my years of military service (20) and all the years since (23) I had never been invited or exposed to any such activities on not only Veterans Day but for that matter any day of the year.  It simply did not happen.

Let me take you back to the 60's and 70's.  I entered the U. S. Coast Guard in 1965 at the height of the Viet Nam War.  How I actually got into the Coast Guard is a funny story and that is for another day.  What I can tell you is that during the 60's and 70's the general U. S. population had little use ore respect for the men and women in the uniform of their country.  I have heard the labels like "baby killers" used more often than I care to admit.  I watched the treatment or lack of treatment our service men and women received or did not receive upon their return for war zones.  Never once did I ever hear anyone say, "Thank you for your service."

Now it is 2013 and the first time I heard those words occurred when I was leaving a Sam's Store.  I had my Coast Guard ball cap on and there was a rather elderly gentleman entering Sam's in a wheelchair wearing a World War II cap and a jacket with a couple of military patches.  As I was getting ready to say to him, "Thank you for your service", he said to me, "Thank you for your service."  I was embarrassed that he got it out first and more importantly that he said it to me, a World War II veteran telling me thank you.  You had to be there.  I was uncomfortable for quite a while after that encounter.  This veteran was clearly 20 years or more older than I was and probably endured years of strife during a most miserable war.

Then came today.  The first thing that happened was that I stopped at a gas station wearing my Coast Guard shirt and cap as requested by my grandson.  The lady behind the counter said, you guessed it, "Thank you for your service."  As I arrived at the school, there were several children playing in the soccer fields just outside the school and as I pulled up they were waving at me.  As I pulled into park my car a police officer pointed me in the right direction and again you guessed it, "Thank you for your service."  From the moment I arrived until I left, everyone was so polite and greeted me not only with a smile but also with "Thank you for your service."

The event lasted only about 40 minutes and it was moving to say the least.  There were about 30 veterans who were seated on the stage and the children flowed into the auditorium and all took their places on the floor.  The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps presented the colors.  We all sang the National Anthem and then we were all thanked for our service.  But then 5 of the students came on stage to introduce everyone to The  American's Creed.  It was written in 1917 by William Tyler Page who had a very interesting story that you can learn more about by going to  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tyler_Page  

The American's Creed
By William Tyler Page

I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people by the people, for the people, whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a  Republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect Union, one and inseparable, established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my Country to love it, to support its Constitution; to obey its laws, to respect the flag, and to defend it against all enemies.

Each branch of service was then called out and the respective veterans on stage stood up to be recognized.  Following the ceremony we all went into the cafeteria for refreshments and conversation.  It was a wonderful experience especially for someone like me and I am certain others on stage who rarely if ever heard the phrase, "Thank you for your service."

As nice as the ceremony was, there was something nagging at me.  The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard and Coast Guard including their reserve components were all recognized but I noticed that there was no mention of the U. S. Merchant Marines nor the U. S. Public Health Service, both members of the uniformed services of the United States.  In fact the Merchant Marines had the highest percentage of casualties during World War II; one casualty for every 26 members.  Compared to the Army at 1 in 46 and the Marines at 1 in 34.  I have no information on the Public Health Service members.  This may or may not have been an oversight as there may not have been any relatives of the students that served in these branches of the uniformed services.

Therefore my recommendation to everyone would be that in future years and future Veterans Days please remember all the branches of the uniformed services of the United States - Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and Public Health Service and their reserve components.

More importantly, don't wait until Veterans Day to thank a veteran or for that matter a police officer, sheriff deputy, fireman or first responders in general.  Take it from a retired veteran, it not only felt good, it felt reeeeeeeal good as Zig Ziglar would say.  Thank you for noticing.

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