Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You, Veterans

I had these simple cards made over 14 years ago.  After scribbling so many hastily written, illegible notes to place on the windshields of cars I realized I needed something that was a bit more expeditious.  When I see men or women wearing caps emblazoned with their branch of service, or license plates that identify a veteran, jackets, T-shirts, etc, I tend to make a fool of myself running after the individual to thank them and shake their hand.  My daughter has had the honor of shaking many a veteran's hand. 
 One gentleman had no right hand so she just hugged him instead.  

Mostly, the elder veterans from WWII share their stories with us;  Tales of boys leaving home and becoming men under the most dire of circumstances.  These are lessons Gracie will carry with her for her entire life.  War, perhaps sometimes necessary, is never pretty. Nor is war to be entered into lightly.

I met my first veteran when I was 13.  He was a 91 year old man when he told me the story of how he left home at 18 to serve in the Great War.  I never forgot him.  He quoted the poem Flander's Fields to me, by heart.

I never forgot the words of the poem or the story that James told me.

Sadly, most of the men I have spoken to have never been thanked.  They actually thank me for thanking them!

About 6 months ago, I spied a veterans' license plate in the parking lot of the local WalMart.  As usual, I hurriedy grabbed a card and headed toward the parked car.  There was a young man and a woman inside, to my surprise.  It looked as if they had been arguing.  Too late, however, I had already rapped on the window.  They looked at me.  I felt so small.  He rolled down his window and glared at me.  "Yes?"

"I, um, saw your, um, license plate and I just wanted to thank you for your service to our country".  I stammered.  I thrust the card toward him. "May I shake your hand?"
He stared at me.
His wife stared at me.  Her eyes were red.
His wife spoke, "Can I tell her?"
He nodded his head and began to heave and sob.
He had recently returned home after two tours from, where, I never learned.
He had just left the hospital, where he stayed for several days after attempting to end his own life.
"It matters," was all he could say through his sobs, and "thank you".

There are so many more stories.  So many more.

Friends, I have given out almost 2,500 hundred cards in the last 14 years and the common refrain is "no one ever thanked me".  Then they thank me.  How backwards is that?  Really.  We thank the cashier at the grocery store for returning our change, we thank the UPS guy but we NEVER thank those men and women who gave their youth, their sanity, huge portions of their souls and their very LIVES!?

We have a joke in our house, "How do you make a Marine cry?"
"You thank him".

Thank you, Veterans, from the bottom of my soul.  Thank you for the very real sacrifices you made,  I will never forget.  WE will never forget. I promise. 




  1. Beautiful story and so true Andie! My husband and I went to Cracker Barrel after church to eat and of course the wait would be 45 or more minutes. My husband purchased Cracker Barrel gift cards and we strolled around while waiting looking for veterans wearing their pins. We were able to give out four gift cards and each veteran was shocked, very appreciative but very surprised. One especially, he served in the Vietnam war, and was sharing with us how difficult it was when they came home. He was the sweetest man and so thankful for the kindness.
    I join with you in thanking our veterans...

  2. You brought tears to my eyes Andie you are such an amazing person! We have many Veteran plates in our small hamlet and I think I will start doing what you do, thanking them for the country we live.


  3. This is one of the sweetest posts I've ever read, and you have got to be one of the sweetest people, ever!

    As the wife of a retired military man, who served two tours in Viet Nam, I want to thank YOU from the bottom of my heart, for what YOU do! I'm sure that you have brightened a lot of days, for a lot of people with your acts of kindness, and appreciation.

    My husband always expresses his appreciation when he meets a Vet, or active duty person, too. He is the store manager of a large chain store (the one you mentioned) and comes in contact with a lot of them, on a daily basis, so I am going to share your idea with him, and Cindy's, too! They are both wonderful ideas!

    Again...thanks, Andie!

  4. It is a very important day. For Poland doubly, because we also celebrate our Independence on that day. I wrote about it last year and this year. It's a wonderful thing you are doing with the "Thank you" cards for veterans.
    Hugs to you my friend.

  5. That is touching, and you are so thoughtful and together, actually having cards made up!

  6. How wonderful that you do this! I have two brothers who served in Viet Nam and they both came home scarred....and still are. Life has been very, very hard for them. After all these years, they both still have flashbacks and are reduced to tears in a moment. These are without warning. I bleed for them and for all the Vets as they have given so much. I hope you do not mind, but I am going to start handing out cards to the Veterans also! My first card will go to my Dad who is a WWII Purple Heart recipient...he will be 91 this December 6th. You know where the 2nd and 3rd card will go.

  7. This brought tears to my eyes~ You just never know how much an act of kindness can affect another's life.


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