I see heroes everywhere.
This week I found myself, over the course of only a couple hours, crossing paths with several veterans – men who’d selflessly served our nation and quietly returned to the life we all enjoy today.
Most are quiet, low-key about not only their service, but of their experiences. What they did was just a part of their duty – something they understood as a chapter in their lives in exchange for the life they and their loved ones share.
“Thank you for your service,” I said.
I’d pulled off the highway at a state rest stop to check a map and stretch my legs. Opening the door to leave the simple stone building I noticed the man ahead of me, wearing a blue baseball cap moving slowly but determined. On the back gold stitched letters reading the words ‘veteran’.
As I held the door I noticed the front panel of the hat displayed he’d served in the Vietnam War.
Surprised at my comment, almost like he wondered how I knew, he smiled.
“Thank you,” he said. “I served twenty-years before I retiring.”
A nametag on the front of his jacket revealed he was traveling with a group who were coming and going from a large tour bus parked along the curb.
Slowing my walk, we talked casually as we made our way back down the sidewalk as others came and went from the tour bus.
His smile was warm, his words kind. There was not need to go into explanation. He served and was silently proud of his contribution. In his eyes, he was not hero, just another of the 2.7 million men who served in the Vietnam War. Duty called.
To those of us who grew up in a generation where such service is made under different circumstances, relating and fully understanding the sacrifices this man – and those he served with – is difficult to accurately appreciate. I’ve lived in a time where my horizon was filled with decisions like what college to attend, where to go on a spring break, or how to score tickets to a concert.
Life and death decisions require both elements – the latter being something that makes the transforms the former into a way most of us can never full appreciate.
As my new friend and I parted ways, he and his blue cap turning towards the bus and me towards my car, we both shared a few final words. But as he negotiated up the steps, I found myself feeling as if there was so much more I’d left unsaid. I wanted him to know how much I respect him and those he served alongside. And I wanted him to know how truly as I feel as if God will reserve a special place for those who took the brave steps of sacrifice for the rest of us.
And I wanted him to know that in my heart, heroes wear blue ball caps.
– 30 –