Tim says: Here is my Recipe du Jour friend, Rich’s newsletter post today. A lesson to remember about all of our veterans across all eras and apply every day of the year.
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It’s sincere, but it’s also rather trendy to thank a military veteran these days. “Thank you for your service.” I hear it at least weekly, sometimes more often. I say it myself. For many years I never heard it at all.
“Thank you for your service” means “Thank you for putting your civilian life on hold,” and “Thank you for working so hard,” and “Thank you for suffering,” and maybe most of all “Thank you for risking your life.”
I work the service desk at BJ’s Wholesale Membership Club. It’s a far cry from the jungles of Vietnam. I’m lucky to be there. Last week an Asian woman came to the counter to renew her membership. I’m pretty good at guessing country origins from names. When I saw hers I asked if she was Vietnamese. She nodded. I said I had been there. She asked when and I told her.
“You were in the war?”
I nodded again, not sure how she would react.
She reached her hands across the counter and gripped both of mine, tightly, her voice firm, intent. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for fighting for us. Thank you for fighting for our freedom.”
I was speechless. I started to say I didn’t really do any fighting, but then I heard that whupping sound of a sniper’s bullet tumbling by my ear. My mind shifted and I shot into a flashback. On another day I was in a Huey in a monsoon as we lowered into the misty jungle. The blades snapped branches off. Colored smoke grenades were like monster streaks of finger-paint on the side of the hill. I saw muzzle bursts. I heard shots and screeching metal. In the middle of a firefight grunts lifted their buddy up and I grabbed him, pulling him to the deck of our hovering bird. My mind shifted again and it was night and I knew the mortar rounds stepping toward my hootch would hit. Shift. I felt like a breaking mirror at hearing a screaming rocket. And shift. And shift. And I was back.
All this in the blink of an eye and a tear.
“Thank you,” she said and it meant more to me than anyone else thanking me for my service. She was the reason we were there.
“I escaped in 1980,” she went on. “I love my freedom. I love America.”
I held her hands as tightly as she held mine, but we were at the service desk of BJ’s Wholesale Membership Club and the line behind her was lengthening. The war is in the past now. Still, it’s part of me. We didn’t want to let go of each other, but we did.
Tim says: Thank you for coming home.