JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
A few days ago I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items after work. A lady stopped me on my way out of the store.
"Excuse me, I'd like to say something to you," the woman said.
She said "thank you."
She thanked me for my service and for her and her family's freedom, and told me to be safe no matter where in the world I was located.
These simple words of thanks make me proud to be a veteran. What this kind woman said to me was completely unexpected, but appreciated. After a long day at work, it's nice to hear someone say thank you for what some people take for granted: freedom.
I come from a family full of veterans; my great grandfather was in the Polish Army and my great uncle was in the U.S. Air Force. I have uncles and a cousin that served during the Vietnam War. Another great uncle served during World War II. Perhaps one of the biggest influences of my life was my grandfather, who was in Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I wonder what it was like for my grandfather all those years ago. I wonder if he would be proud that I'm serving my country, trying to follow in his footsteps.
When I think of my family, I also wonder if anyone has ever thanked them for their service. I know that not all veterans are always thanked. After Vietnam, many veterans came home to protest, where they were looked down on and called names. Some veterans don't come home at all, and people protest at their funerals to this very day.
I think this is wrong. Veterans should be thanked, whether people believe in war or not. We give up so many things people take for granted, such as birthdays and holidays. We work crazy hours, sometimes seven days a week in not-so-nice conditions. We fight overseas so that others don't have to. We do so much, yet, are not always treated with respect. This is why a simple thank you means so much to me.
There is a tradition I have started for myself since I joined the Air Force more than 14 years ago. Whenever I see older veterans at the mall, when I'm out to eat, or wherever I happen to be, I take the time to thank them.
You never know what will happen when you say thank you. I have seen men get teary-eyed, I have heard stories and learned lessons that you will never find in a history book, and sometimes I have just gotten a simple "you're welcome."
My challenge to you this Veterans Day and every day is to take a moment and thank a veteran.
From one veteran to another, Happy Veterans Day, and thank you.