Veterans Day is six days away. That is the “official” day we honor veterans. For many Americans that is enough. For others it is never enough.
Two weeks ago I was visiting a church in North Carolina. We were seated when two burly men in motorcycle “colors” walked in and took a seat in front of us. I could see some people were turned off by these hairy and rather unkempt men. They had blue jean vests on, their hair was bound in a bandanna and their blue jeans were dirty. No one sat next to them.
Perhaps because they were seated in front of me and because I am basically a nosey person, I read the logos on the back of their vests. I expected to see the Harley-Davidson logo and ads for bike dealers but what I did not expect was the patch that was larger than the rest. It read “Freedom Riders” and listed their Veterans of Foreign Wars affiliation.
My opinion of these two men changed in a heartbeat. These were two of the motorcycle riders who attend military funerals in the belief that all such funerals should be afforded a certain amount of decorum. They also make certain no protest group will mar the services.
Obviously for those two men, Veterans Day is not observed once a year. For them Veterans Day is every day.
Before I left the service I made it a point to shake their hands and thank them for the service they gave to the country when they were in uniform and for the service they provide today. I was not alone. As more and more people saw the reverse of the vets, they shook their hands and thanked them. The two men were overwhelmed and a bit embarrassed. They did not seek recognition. To them providing an honor guard at a funeral was one last duty that needed to be fulfilled.
The two men were older, not much younger than myself. Looking into their wrinkled, gray bearded faces I saw myself and countless others who had served but do not seek recognition for that service. Like our fathers and grandfathers, they did what was required of them so they could return home and resume their lives in the nation they had helped to defend.
That is why it is so easy for many to overlook Veterans Day.. Vets do not take to the streets and march in protests. Vets do not launch into tirades on national TV to belittle their nation. Many Vets do not even talk about what they experienced during their service. Sadly, many of those experiences are never shared at all.
My wife recently took a position as a Charge Nurse at a VA hospital in Salisbury, N. C. Although she cannot tell me everything she has experienced, she can tell me about some of the Veterans she has met without mentioning their names. I can see in her a growing respect for these men and women who set aside their personal life to serve the nation. Many of them made service their career.
When I visited the hospital in Salisbury, I also made a trip to the National Cemetery behind the hospital. I read the tombstones and the legend carved on those stones. There were men who served n World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and, yes, in the Gulf War. There were those who served many years and those who served just a short time.
Lying in their neat rows, side by side, you could not tell if the man beneath was white, black, brown or yellow. They were all Americans who served their nation and all came to the same place in their end.
The Veterans Day service in Brookville is being held at the Brookville Area High School. This was arranged so that the students could witness the service and, hopefully, learn from it.
I have no doubt a few will sleep through the service and a few others will give it lip service. That is natural. But just maybe there will be a few who understand what has been given to them by those people on the stage.
Perhaps they, like the North Carolina Freedom Riders, will carry Veterans Day with them though out the year.