on veterans day


I was sitting here wondering which story to tell tonight when a flashing light on my blackberry signaled a message from my friend Jon, the managing editor at an Atlanta newspaper, wishing me a happy Veterans Day.  I met Jon five years ago at a luncheon; he heard me refer to my recent deployment to Iraq when he was still a staff reporter and told me his employer might want to do a 1000-word piece on my “trip.”  When I sent him copies of the bulk emails I’d sent home, they turned the article into a 3-part cover story that instigated more “letters to the editor” than any piece they’d written, eventually winning an award from the National Newspaper Association.  So, we’ve been friends ever since.

In honor of Nov 11, here are some of the random kindnesses I’ve experienced while in uniform:

1) On the way home from Iraq earlier this year, we had a layover of sorts at Aviano AFB, Italy.  We were corralled into a large hangar and told to wait while they refueled.  No indication was given that this would be anything more than the cattle call to which we’d grown accustomed over the past few days of trying to get from Iraq to the States.  When we walked inside, however, there were tables full of food, drinks, and smiling civilian family members who were there to tell us “thanks” and give us our first non-military-issued meal in months.  It was a very welcomed, and very unexpected, treat.

2) I’ve been out to lunch several times since 2003 and had a random person walk up to me to say “thanks” and even buy my lunch.

3) I’ve walked into gas stations along the interstate after a National Guard drill weekend with my travel cup, seeking coffee, and have had my cash refused.

4) I’ve been told to move to the front of the grocery store line while in uniform (not on a base or post).

5) Southwest Airlines flew me from Nashville to BWI, where we were to catch the military rotator to Kuwait; the stewardesses gave my friend Shane and me all the free Heinekens we could drink, which was a lot.

6) I’ve been walking through the airport when this happened:

7) When Jessica Lynch came to Atlanta with Rick Bragg for a book signing, I decided to go.  When I saw the line, I walked back to my car, pulled out of my parking space, and started to drive away.  But before I turned out of the bookstore parking lot, I braked.  I thought about whether or not I would regret not standing in line for a few minutes to see the girl I’d met several months prior in the desert.  Yes, I would.  I parked again and got in line.  When my wait ended, I re-introduced myself to her, since she was barely coherent when I helped carry her from the ambulance to the C-17 that would carry her from Camp Wolf, Kuwait to Ramstein AFB, Germany.  Rick Bragg, who won a Pulitzer Prize in ’96, shook my hand and told everyone at the bookstore who I was, and they all stopped what they were doing to give me a standing ovation.

8)  One of my emails home during the ’03 deployment spoke of being unable to sleep, because, a few minutes before my head hit the cot, three soldiers came into the Emergency Room and found out the man they were inquiring about had died there an hour earlier, and the guy’s “battle buddy” ran outside the vestibule, fell to his knees, and howled his sorrows at the stars above.  Throughout that night, I kept awaking to the sounds of his anguished screams and put myself in his position, wondering how I’d react if Shane were killed.  My dad, a decorated Vietnam War aviator, wrote me back and said he was convinced that I had “become a man now.  And a damned fine one at that.”

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  1. Even…or maybe especially…those who are opposed to the war should thank the men and women who have served.

  2. Pretty Bride

    This made me cry. You’re awesome.

  3. As a Canadian, the way Americans appreciate the work their soldiers do is one of the things I envy about the U.S.

    From a civilian, and a neighbour, thank you.

  4. avatgardener

    PB, me too. three times.
    this is too good for my lousy alliteration today. well, at least this early in the day. maybe after lunch.

  5. I’m thankful..and I love hearing ways others have shown their appreciation and gratitude.

    chamblee54 – I think you’re right. I believe the opposition to the war has been misunderstood. I think most opposed to this war feel that opposition BECAUSE they’re thinking of our troops. It’s not an issue of wether or not they’re doing a good’s an issue of wether or not we believe their lives should have been put in danger in the first place.

    I live surrounded by a society that believes opposing the war equals being unpatriotic, or not supporting our troops..and it’s just not so. Unfortunately this election fanned the flames of this debate in these parts.

    When I hear what these soldiers and their families have gone through the past 5 years I am just in awe at that kind of dedication and sacrifice for our nation..I am also moved to wonder if the end will justify the means.

  6. can’t wait, inspired.

    Humble, hungry, hairy HERO harkens horror, honor, havoc, help, hurrahs. Healing? Hmmmm. Happiness? Hellyeah!!

    From a 20 year type vet to a True American Hero, thank you.

  7. Proud of you…as always.

  8. This was a great post. The video and your final description of the grieving soldier brought the tears.

    Have a Peaceful Veterans Day. And thank you.

    p.s. Found you via Punk Rock Dad, and Sherri over at Oh. Hey. Hi!

  9. A damned fine man, indeed. You are awesome, I applaud you. Thank you.

  10. this was a great post. thank you for all you’ve done for us.

  11. Thanks for your service.

  12. I snotted up, too. I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I’m still glad you made it home.

  13. Thanks so much for all the kind comments. I guess this post looks a little like horn tooting, but I really wanted to let folks know that their appreciation and recognition is very appreciated. My Dad got the finger when he came back from Vietnam, so I always feel a little guilty, but also relieved, that, despite the mass opposition to our current conflict, most people are genuinely kind and gracious to the troops themselves. Thanks again–

  14. Thank you for serving our country. Our military deserves our undying gratitude and devotion. If you want to make me angry, down our military. I’m with Maxine on this one: ” If you can’t stand behind our military then go stand in front of it.”

    Thanks again and Happy Veterans’ Day

  15. Hey! Are those my shorts? Happy Vet day, you’re a hero.

  16. Always proud to have you as a friend.

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  18. You’re a credit to your fellow soldiers and to your country, my friend. “Thanks” doesn’t really do justice to what all of us owe you guys, but hopefully it will suffice.

  19. Well deserved horn tooting. Happy Veteran’s Day yesterday.

  20. There are a few times in the course of a year where a “Thank You” seems cheap and words never seem to fully express what is running through my mind.

    To this post I say “…………”

    Its the best I can offer in a speechless state.

  21. Thank you for your service.

  22. Muskrat, I finally made it over here to read your Veteran’s Day post. Fantastic. Thanks for your service.

    Johnny Virgil’s last blog post..Get your Festive Flashing Savior Today!

  23. Pretty Bride

    This made me cry, again. You’re even more awesome than this day last year.

  24. I almost made it to the end without crying. Almost. Thanks for the tears. And your service.
    .-= califmom´s last blog ..Veterans Day: Honoring My Father =-.

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  26. seeing this post for the first time today in 2011), and wow — it is so great to hear of all these little moments where one of our men in uniform — you — was appreciated for his work and duty.

  27. thanks so much for sharing this. is still think of your post from last year. i learned a lot more about you today. i’m canadian and don’t even really agree with war, but i do respect and honour anyone brave enough to defend something with their life.

    thank you for your sacrifice.
    you should totally write a book you know.

  28. I love this post. Thanks for your service and one day I hope to buy you Heinikens.

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  30. Thank you, Father Muskrat. Thank you for serving and writing this, you made me cry. You are a Hairy Mustache-y Hero for sure.

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  32. For several people, the weekly paycheck is ‘take-home pay’ because home is the one place they could afford to choose it.
    There are two sorts of companies, those who work to attempt to charge countless people who work to charge less. We’ll be the 2nd.

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