The significance of a “Thank-You”

28 May

Happy Memorial Day! I do think that Memorial Day has a different meaning to everyone. Today I was given the gracious opportunity to speak at the Memorial Day program in our community, and it was truly a humbling experience to see all of the veterans looking up at me while I recited a beautiful poem. When I think of the significance of today, a few things come to mind. First of all, I think of close family members who have served in wars, both past and present. Second, I cannot help but feel humbled by all of the veterans who continue to take pride in all of the service they have provided for our country. If we think about it, these veterans will no longer be here to share their stories of war and the struggles they have endured. Lastly, I think of smiles. It sound strange, but I think of smiles. Many might say that today of all day is NOT about smiles, but I beg to differ. As children we are always taught that a smile can change someones day, so smile as much as possible. I’ve always been told that it takes more muscles to frown than smiling, so smile. But I also think of pain. A smile hides pain, am I right? Memorial day is a day of remembrance and pain. As a veteran, I could not imagine waking up on memorial day. Put yourself into a veterans shoes:

You’re old. You can’t deny the inevitable, you’re old. You’re frail, potentially wounded in war. Getting out of bed is a potential struggle due to your frailness. You change up your daily routine slightly by putting on your old military uniform, maybe your legion jacket. You shine up your shoes, blow the dust off of all your pins and the decorations on your jacket. You find you hat, carefully put it on top of your stereotypical comb-over (If you have hair at all, that is). Finish up the daily routine and have your breakfast. Grab your keys and just before leaving your home, you look in the mirror. When you look in the mirror, you see a different person. Today isn’t the routine “look in the mirror before heading out” type of deal. When you look in the mirror, you see the memories of what you’ve suffered through. You see lost friends and loved ones. In your eyes, you see the eyes of dead soldiers looking back at you, glazed over. When you look in the mirror, you see the wrinkles in your skin and realize you’re not as young as you thought you were. But, when you think about your youth, you remember the moment you enlisted and potentially signed your life away with one stroke of the pen. Lastly, when you look in the mirror, you glance at your teeth. Whether you’ve got dentures or still the same pearly whites you were born with, you glance at your teeth. These teeth are your security blanket and they’re your sunshine on a rainy day. When you think about your teeth, you think about the smiles you’ve had to fake and the times you’ve had to grit your teeth to stop the tears. On days like memorial day, the one day out of the year solely dedicated to you, you have to smile. When that little girl comes up to you and shakes your hand and says “thank-you”, you smile and kindly accept the gesture. The young man who has served two tours in iraq comes and firmly shakes your hand, saluting you for all your service because he knows what he has seen is nothing compared to what you have seen, you smile and applaud him for his continuation of service to our country. You visit the cemeteries of your friends and comrades who didn’t live to see this memorial day and smile, because you know they’re living far beyond this earthly life and smiling back down on you. Now that you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror and relived every single memory, moment and heartache of your past, you grab your keys and leave for that Memorial Day service you’ve been waiting for all year.

Thank a veteran, because they’re smiling on a day when it’s hardest to smile.

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