This year, I attended my first Veterans Day service. I feel embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. My dad was a veteran, but he didn’t talk much about his experience. He said once that it was one of the best times of his life. (He never saw combat.) He was a military policeman at Fort Benning, GA, for two years in the mid-’60s.
I have a bunch of my dad’s slides, and I recently bought a gadget that transfers slides into digital files. The first slides that I transferred were of his time in the Army. They give me a slight window into his experience, for which I am grateful.
Although my town’s Veterans Day service was a comedy of errors of sorts, I was glad to attend it. It was windy; people were standing socially distanced; and since most speakers wore masks as they gave remarks, it was difficult to understand them. Then, to add insult to injury, the microphone died halfway through the ceremony. But I could glean that awards were given out, veterans from the local VFW spoke, wreaths were put in front of monuments. A woman with a lovely voice sang multiple patriotic songs.
When a man in T-shirt and jeans played an abbreviated version of “Taps,” I blinked away hot tears, closed my eyes, and tilted my head toward the sky. My dad is buried at a national cemetery, and a service member played “Taps” at his funeral service. So every time I hear that song now, I am transported to the cold January day when the box of my dad’s ashes was buried in the ground.
When the service ended, I walked past a few elderly men wearing veterans’ baseball caps. What they have seen, I thought, as I smiled at them and thanked them for their service. As I walked home, I wondered about how hard veterans have had to fight to get benefits and help when they returned from their service. I wondered how much they might still have to fight for it today. I thought about the 76 veterans at the Soliders’ Home in Holyoke, MA, who died in a COVID-19 outbreak. I felt gratitude for all of the service members, past and present, who have protected our country in so many different ways.