In 1973 with a tenuous peace just declared in Vietnam, and in light of my deplorable academic record, I enlisted in the United States Air Force…. An organization that seemed genuinely delighted to have me.
I served four long years in the USAF including a twelve month “Remote duty” stint in purgatory, or as it appears on the Alaskan State Map, “King Salmon”. I received an Honorable discharge in April of 1977. Although I never left the United States, if one considers Alaska part of the United States. And while no one was shooting at me during my military service, I officially joined the ranks of “Vietnam Era Veterans”. For those who were around at the time, being a Vietnam Era Veteran wasn’t something you advertised on a Tee shirt and I quickly learned it was not the first thing out of one’s mouth when introduced to a young woman. No big deal.
I have never regretted my service to my country but it is something that few who meet me are likely to discover. Besides, my war stories nearly all involve bar fights in Great Falls Montana and not the heady stuff heroes are made of. In the thirty plus years since my discharge, I received no invitations to, nor did I feel the need to attend Veteran’s Day ceremonies… these days merely passed as any other.
Four years ago, something happened that seemed to change all that. I was on a plane about to land in Charlotte when the flight attendant made an announcement that surprised me; “Folks, we have a few military personnel on the plane and I think we should all show them our appreciation for the job they are doing”. The plane erupted in applause. It brought a tear to my eye. During my tenure in the military, I seldom strayed from base in uniform going so far as to pay full price for airlines tickets rather than flying “military standby” which required I wear my uniform.
So it went for four more years until today. Sitting at my desk, an announcement was made that a ceremony honoring veterans was scheduled and everyone was invited. Honestly, it just never occurred to me to go until one of my co-workers sort of shamed me into going by telling me I needed to show support for the veterans. So I went and something strange happened, at one point they asked the veterans to raise their hands. If nothing else, after being married for 32 years I do follow directions quite well and raised my hand…. To the surprise of many it turns out. What followed was a genuine outpouring of gratitude. I did not expect this and frankly I was humbled by the response. Just wanted to say thanks….