Our son returned home after his enlistment in the USMC on Memorial Day. The first thing we all did was attend the Memorial Day Parade to honor Veterans who had died.
It was an amazing morning and we felt extremely blessed to be together. People of all ages crowded near the street, some standing, some on chairs or on the curb, and children sat on the shoulders of trusted adults. There was cheering, clapping, and at times somber salutes as the different military branches passed by.
Even though I knew what was going on around me, my focus was on my son. I remember as our group found our spot, a man using a cane walked past us carrying an old beat up lawn chair to an empty spot near by. I saw him, yet didn’t really pay attention to him. He wasn’t part of our group he was in the background, an extra on the scene that was playing out in my life.
In the photos I took that day there was a great picture of my son and husband, but there was a third person in the background. It was the older man with the cane. That photo revealed a lot about this man, causing me to feel terrible that I’d considered him just another man in a crowd. I saw more than tattered jeans, old bandana, worn out boots and a weathered face. I noticed an old leather vest covered with patches of events from the Vietnam era. He was possibly a Veteran and I’d ignored him.
I try to make an effort to thank any Veteran I see, and here was a hero that may have served in the Vietnam War and I was so caught up in my own excitement, I didn’t take time to really see him, let alone thank him. He was sitting 15 feet from my son, also a Veteran, all alone on the sidelines of a parade he possibly attended every year to honor his comrades.
My heart aches knowing he’s just one of thousands of Veterans, the warriors of our country, that quietly go on with their lives unnoticed, never looking for acclimation for themselves, yet always ready to honor other Veterans. They’re America’s invisible heroes.
Veterans young and old deserve this country’s deepest thanks, respect and honor. Regardless of their current place in our society, they are role models, real heroes who exemplify courage, loyalty and understand true sacrifice. They are the warriors of our land, our neighbors that God commands us to love more than ourselves. They are the greatest among us because they’ve served for us.
Americans need to really see them, to support them for whom they are, their patriotism, and for the difficult, yet amazing job they’ve done in protecting and preserving our freedoms. Any less than that would be a disgrace for us as citizens of the United States.