Thank you for your service.

Five simple words spoken to a veteran and every day is Veterans Day. My parents recently came for a visit to help celebrate my birthday. We try to see each other in person a few times a year, and my birthday is always a popular choice.

My parents recently had been in a car accident, and, while they only suffered minor injuries, they were still sore. Mom was up for waking up with me on my day off and attending a Veterans Day Salute at Powhatan Elementary School on Nov. 8, but Dad was hurting and needed to get a little more rest.

I hadn’t had a chance to go grocery shopping before they arrived, so Mom and I had breakfast out that morning (after buying something for Dad to eat at home). As we sat there that morning, I looked over and noticed an older gentleman at a nearby table. He had taken off his ball cap, which identified him as a veteran.

When I got up to throw away the trash from our meal, I walked over to greet him and say five simple words, “Thank you for your service.” He gave me a big smile and offered his thanks in return.

In the days surrounding this brief meeting, I saw some wonderful tributes to local veterans. On Nov. 3, I attended the annual Veterans Day Concert that Ruth Boatwright spearheads every year at Powhatan High School and it was, as always, a wonderful tribute. It was especially heartwarming to see a group of female veterans who were brought out from McGuire Veterans Hospital and given special recognition.

I just mentioned that morning I was heading to the elementary school, which, once again, put on a fabulous show. The fifth-graders at the school should feel very proud of their performance and the way they honored the many veterans who were in attendance that day. This was actually Mom’s second time to attend this event as well, and she also praised the excellent job done by the school.

I will admit to being disappointed that the Veterans Day ceremony hosted by the American Legion Post #201 was not better attended. It is a simple but heartfelt ceremony by a group that strives every day to honor the nation and those who have served it.

The finale for me was the candlelight service presented at the Huguenot Springs Cemetery. I imagine it is hard in a setting like that not to reflect at least a portion of the time on those who never made it home, which did come up in the keynote speaker’s talk. I fully recognize that Memorial Day was established for that purpose and Veterans Day is about celebrating those still with us. But it’s also true that those who came before us and served in the military, whether they made it home or died in the line of duty, shaped what this nation and its military have become today. Honoring the ongoing tradition of bravery is never out of place.

People celebrate Veterans Day in their own way. Some call family members who have served or are serving today. Some post special messages on social media. Some reflect on the service of these brave men and women in prayer, meditation, or moments of silence. Some go to an organized event like the concerts and ceremonies local groups held in the last few weeks in Powhatan.

There is no right or wrong answer as long as you recognize in your heart what this day is about and why we celebrate it.

In the same way, there is nothing that says Nov. 11 is the only time of year we should find ourselves taking the time to respectfully approach a veteran or active duty military personnel and say five simple words: “Thank you for your service.”

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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