I was sitting with my wife, granddaughter and her parents this evening in a burger joint in Allen, Texas.
A little girl, about maybe 10 or 11 years of age, stood by the end of the table where I was sitting. She waited for me to finish saying something to my family members.
Then she said, “I want to thank you for your service in the Army.”
I was taken aback. To be candid, I was moved almost to tears, as I did swallow hard for a moment.
I had worn a ballcap to the restaurant. It said “Army” with the words “Vietnam Veteran.” You’ve seen hats like it, I’m sure. They feature the ribbons all ‘Nam vets get when they served during that terrible conflict.
What I got tonight was a demonstration of respect that (a) I didn’t get when I returned home from the U.S. Army in 1970 or (b) I never thought of extending to a military veteran when I was that little girl’s age.
She stood at the end of the table with a woman who I’ll presume is her mother. Maybe Mom told her to say what she said; maybe the little girl thought of it all by herself. It doesn’t matter one little bit to me as I write this brief blog post.
What we witnessed this evening is an ongoing sense of appreciation that our nation is expressing to those who have worn a military uniform. It seems to have had its birth during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91. Communities across the nation welcomed those fighting Americans home with parades and salutes after their stunning victory in Kuwait. I witnessed one of those parades in Beaumont, Texas, and I saluted a flatbed trailer carrying a group of Vietnam vets who got their share of love from the crowd gathered along the parade route.
Who led the cheers for the Gulf War heroes? Vietnam War vets who weren’t shown that kind of affection when they returned home from that earlier war.
A little girl made my day. She made me swallow mighty hard for just a moment or two.
This old veteran thanks her — and all those who continue to thank me for my service.