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My Veterans Day Experience November 10, 2006

Posted by Jay Medina in Reflections.
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Today I attended a Veterans Day assembly at my oldest son’s school.  I am always honored when my boys ask me to attend their school functions, and when Marcus asked me to come to this one, I certainly wanted to.  Things at work were getting kind of busy, and this morning I asked him if it would be ok if I skipped this year’s assembly, since I went to the one at his school last year.

He looked so sad, and so dissapointed that I told him I’d be there.  As luck would have it, I was able to get there a little early, and he hadn’t come to the assembly yet.  Last year, it was in the cafeteria, but this year, they had it on the athletic field, in the bleachers.  Reason was, this year they asked two Army pilots to attend, and they brought their Blackhawk helicopter with them.

Marcus got to see them land it earlier in the day, and as I got to the top of the hill where the field was, the Blackhaws was sitting there, perched on the football field, like a majestic bird.  It was a Medevac helicopter, as denoted by the very familiar red cross painted on the doors and nose.

Now, I can be as mean as the rest of them in combat, but when it comes to these ceremonies, I get a little choked up.  Last year I certainly did.  This year was a bit of a different experience. 

As I came to the top of the hill where the athletic field sits, I knew the helicopter would be there… but I didn’t know I’d react the way I did.  Laying eyes on that beautiful bird caught me with emotion.  As soon as I saw it, it reminded me of so much that went on over there, and all the many times I’d see helicopters flying overhead, or hear them while in my bunk at night… or even the time I saw a Medevac rushing a wounded Soldier to the field hospital, where his life lay in the balance.

As the group was on the other side of the field, I was somewhat alone, and without warning, tears just started to run down my face.  A rush of memories came in within a blink of an eye.  When one of the children acting as an usher asked me if I was a parent or a veteran, I answered, “Both.”  I guess that was kinda cool.  I’m proud to be both, and frankly, very lucky to be both.

As a student passed by, helping a teacher carry an ice chest over to the staff on the other side, I overheard him say that his dad was in Iraq right now.  My heart sank.  I remember how my boys felt when their dad was away, as they would tell me whenever I called them. 

Later during the ceremony, they asked the veterans attending to please stand, and we all got our round of applause.  Then the principal asked for the students who had parents serving overseas to please stand up, and a wave of children stood up.  My jaw flew open.  I could not believe how many children stood… how many children are going home every day from school and there is one or both parents gone many thousands of miles away.  I was amazed, and yet, we are a nation at war.

A big coincidence was I saw a buddy who I served with over there, SSG Greg Smith.  After the ceremony, I went and shook his hand, but we ended up bear-hugging.  You can’t go through a year of Iraq and not hug when you see each other.  It was great to see him; and when I introduced him to Marcus, they shook hands and I was so proud of my boy.  I had even remembered that Greg and I had bunks right next to each other when we were at Ft. Hood, preparing to mobilize to Iraq. 

He was in uniform as he is still in the Service. Seeing Greg along with my experience with the Blackhawk, combined with my seeing all those students who have a part of their hearts overseas with their parents who are serving, made for a very humbling day today. 

In the end, I’m glad I made the time and went, and that I got to sit next to my son during it all.  Even though he is in middle school, I think he was proud to have his dad there as well.  But, I think I got the better end of the bargain today.

May God Bless all Military Members, their families, our Veterans, and You.

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