About nine years ago I was working selling high-end jewelry. There was a man who came into the store who wasn’t my customer. I happen to overhear him mention to my coworker that he’d been in Vietnam. So I waited until his sale was being taken care of and I went over to shake his hand. We got to talking. Turns out he’d been in Tet Offensive. I studied this Marine before me. He was a large man that looked like he was still pretty tough. But the mere mention of Tet Offensive mixed with me shaking his hand was too much for his emotions. He broke down in tears. He politely took his purchase and left the store. His tears and brokenness have always stayed with me. It’s a reminder to me as to why I do what I do. The Veterans have lived circumstances that only Jesus can heal.
After I wrote my first book “Come, They Told Me” the way I looked at Veterans changed. This yet-to-be published book based on my father’s tour in Vietnam struck me deep to the core of myself. I may never walk in a rice patty or be a grunt soldier but walking “a mile in their shoes” made me realize how amazing the sacrifice men and women make every day in the armed forces. I will never forget when my best friend finished reading the first draft she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and asked me, “Why didn’t they tell us this in school? Why didn’t we ever know?” I didn’t have the answer for her.
Many years ago I felt as if the Lord put it on my heart to go and thank any Veteran I come in contact with. My husband and kids are used to me doing it by now. I always shake their hand and tell them thank you. The words may be simple, the gesture uncomplicated but the impact is lasting. Many veterans have never been thanked. They risk their lives, their comfort, their homes, and their sanity for others. The least we can do is to say “thank you.”
Isaiah 53:12 (NLV) says “I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.”
Today in the United States is Veterans Day. I know these blogs are going all over the world now, but in every country I believe there is some form of a holiday for honoring those who have served their country. I’ll get on the phone and call my dad. “How is my favorite Veteran?” I’ll ask. In his voice will be memories I’ll never truly grasp or understand. He’ll laugh, and ask about his grandkids. I’ll go on about my day. Maybe I’ll see a few Veterans whose hands I can shake. I’ll pray for the old high school acquaintance who is in Iraq realizing he won’t see his family this Christmas. I’ll take a deep breath and sigh. I’ll thank God for the freedom I have that’s been granted to me first by God, and second by the soldiers. Freedom in any form is never free. Go and thank a Veteran today! Their worth it!