Our wonderful nation’s birthday, the 4th of July, came early for me this year. Always one of my favorite holidays, perhaps it’s tied to that fact that my birthday is on Flag Day, this year’s early observance was extra special. The day was this past Sunday, June 25, and it came about as my wife and I attended a concert by our very favorite Christian artist, Sandi Patty, at Abba’s House.
During this past year we had seen Sandi twice on her “Forever Grateful” farewell tour, but were super excited to get VIP tickets for a meet and greet with Sandi herself this time around. Meeting the iconic vocalist was cool enough, but the specialness of the evening came when I realized I was there among many fellow veterans, all there for Sandi’s “Faith, Family and Freedom” concert – a salute to our country, our faith and our military.
While it was special to have Sandi personally thank me for my service (I am an Air Force retiree) and while I never seek out the thanks of my fellow Americans, I do appreciate them all (it was my privilege and honor to serve).
Those expressions of thanks that mean the most to me come from my fellow veterans. To shake the hands of those who have also signed that blank check for up to and including one’s life is a special shared moment. To thank one another for mutually shared service garners a look into the eyes of another who fully understands the meaning of the word service. One who fully appreciates the sacrifices made, who has walked that mile in your boots.
Aside from saluting, shaking the hand and saying thank you to the five Medal of Honor recipients I have been fortunate enough to meet, the men (and women) I am most honored to say thank you to are those who served our country in Vietnam, those who were “boots on the ground” in a war our country mostly despised.
Whatever their feelings, they answered our nation’s call to arms. Some readily, some not, but they all answered, and served. And after they served they came home to a nation that shunned them. They were called the vilest of names and spit upon - a far cry from those before them and those of us who came after. Many of them still fighting their own private wars as only those who have seen combat can understand.
I met many of these brave souls at the concert and was honored to offer them my hand, a pat on the back and a thank you far too late.
As we approach this 4th of July, please remember to offer your hand to a veteran in thanks, especially to our Vietnam vets. Not because we are any better than anyone else, but in this time of turmoil in our nation, we need to come together to support and appreciate all those who work or serve or have served these United States of America in a positive effort to keep our nation strong and Old Glory flying high. There are many we need to thank who never wore a military uniform. And, just because we served we are not heroes. The heroes are our brothers and sisters who didn’t make it back home.
To my brothers and sisters in arms, I offer my thanks for your service. To the families of those who gave the utmost for our nation, I offer my sincerest condolences and thanks for their service and sacrifice.
Happy 4th of July! May you all enjoy a safe and enjoyable holiday! And may our nation heal and move forward to even more greatness.
(Dennis Norwood is a writer and photographer for The Chattanoogan.com and a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force. The views reflected are his alone and not necessarily of the website. He may be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @DennisENorwood)