Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008

I slid back into my spot as a volunteer visitor yesterday at the VA Hospital in Portland. I have not been there for several months due to travel. I found it especially rewarding since yesterday was November 10 and the birthday of the Marines. Every year since 1964 I have been wishing happy birthday to a Marine...when I could find one. I served with some onboard ship and when I was teaching one of our guidance counselors was a Marine. I had my pets I would call on 11/10 each year in case I did not come face to face with a "Jar Head."

Yesterday I visited with six vets...two had served in the Corps. I always ask them which branch of service they were in....Army gets dad and sister stories; AF gets Jim stories and sometimes updated stories about Shawn and Doug. Of course, Navy gets my stories, Jeff stories and sometimes Joe stories...depending on the time I spend with them. The Marines get my admiration and a quip about having 50 in FDR when I was aboard. That was my closest contact....but that is another post.

But I was taken by the souls that I talked to yesterday...mostly my age...in some really tragic health situations. My meetings are brief...usually less than ten minutes. I do not know when the birthday of the Army, Navy and AF are...we just don't celebrate them like the Marines do. They make a thing of it. November 10...they all snap to. So they smile when I wish them a happy birthday...they get it.

The hospital was packed yesterday. Every seat in the entry was taken...the outpatient lines were long and the halls on the 9th floor, where I hang out seemed to be teaming with staff and ambulatory guys. I am humbled when I reflect on the entire situation...hospital, staff, patients, all there because these guys (and sometimes ladies) served in the military. We talk about protecting our freedom, but on a personal level, most of us just took 3, 4, 5 plus years out of our lives and did what our country asked at the time. Some saw combat, most did not, but we did share the sacrifice of service and being away from our families. We don't hear the stories of the dead...that is sad because while we recognize their sacrifice we do not hear about it much...just those of us that survived.

Thanks to them all. Unless you served, I am not sure you would understand what it means to be recognized on 11/11...it is sobering.

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