It was sobering to see the dwindling numbers of retired solders in the honor guard, standing at attention, representing each of the branches of our armed forces. I'm proud to be an American. More importantly, I was humbled to think about what it costs to be an American. I grew up as an Air Force kid and I tasted a sense of patriotism that I've not seen often since moving to California twenty-five years ago. It's not that there aren't patriotic people in California, there are many. it's just that I don't often see many deeply patriotic people - the quiet ones. The ones who understand that freedom is not free.
After the presentation of the colors and a flag salute various dignitaries had their say, gave thanks, and made presentations. Tears streaked down a few of the older men's faces. No doubt, those tears were for more than what happened today. I could not help but think of a 4-minute tribute I watched last night, Br. Dr. Sam, called, "Before You Go," It's a tribute to the to the veterans of WWII.
After the event, I took a moment to thank an older solder, perhaps in his eighties, as he walked away. I thanked him for his contribution to our freedom. He smiled and said "you're welcome." No doubt, like the tears above, there was much to the smile that I did not understand, but I could appreciate his thanks and I hope that he appreciated mine. My grandfather is among those veterans who served in WWII, and though he's not gone, I know that I cannot begin to adequately acknowledge the sacrifice that he and his comrades made on the beaches of Normandy and around the world.
What I can do, is to teach my children about our flag, our country's rich heritage, the men and women who made it so, and the men and women who continue to carry on that tradition today. I can teach them to always remember.
The next time you see a Veteran, be sure to say thank you.
The refrain of the song still rings in my mind: Thank You, Go in Peace.