In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding talks about Veterans Day and what it means to him.
I am going to take a short break from the usual letter that I write to you and talk about something very near and dear to my heart: Veterans Day.
Earlier this week, on Monday, November 11th, was Veterans Day. I was asked to speak at a Veterans Day celebration at Grand Living in Lakewood Ranch a senior living community.
I always feel honored when I am asked to speak at any occasion, but I especially feel very honored when asked to talk on a Veterans Day or any day that has a military theme. I always try to get a handle on who my audience is, and this will influence what words I use that will capture the group. I knew these were senior citizens. Hell, I’m a senior citizen, but I was pretty sure these were individuals that were ten, twenty, or more years older than me. I am 72 years old and I am a Vietnam veteran, so there must have been Korean and WWII veterans amongst this group.
My approach to this speech was to highlight what Veterans Day meant to me and, more specifically, what a veteran is to me. Veterans Day is a day that is set aside to honor all military veterans, anyone who served in the military. A veteran, in my eyes, is a very special person because they gave up a portion of their life to serve this wonderful country of ours. They gave up two, four, or more years of their life to serve this country and some carry scars from wounds they received in battle, a reminder to them and the country that they served. Some veterans gave the ultimate sacrifice, their life.
I took the meaning of veteran a step further and talked about the thing I miss most, and the aspect I enjoyed the most, and that was the camaraderie and the togetherness we all had as veterans. In 23 years of my career in the Navy, I met some of the bravest, some of the smartest, some of the most courageous, and some of the most fearless people I have ever known. I tell you today, that I would have served alongside any of them anywhere in the world. Men and women that cared for the wounded with no regard for their own safety. Their whole purpose was to save a life and get them home safe and sound back with their families.
This audience also saw Vietnam as a big part of their life and, of course, it was a very big part of my life. I told them that Vietnam was the most unpopular war and that there was so much unrest in this nation, but I was a veteran and I came home from Nam with my chin up and stood tall and was proud of my service to this country and that I did not lose faith in our country. I might not have got a big welcome home, but my family was there for me.
I told them that, today, it is wonderful how people have rallied around our service men and women coming home from overseas and how people readily walk up to the service member and thank them for their service. I told them that it warms my heart to see this and I always enjoy being told thanks for your service. I ended my talk with asking them to thank a veteran for their service, because it will warm their hearts.
When I was done with my talk, they applauded and I was asked to stand and greet the eight veterans that were living in this facility and shake their hands as they received a coin indicating which branch of service they were a member.
It was an honor to shake the hands of these veterans that served our country in various ways. One was a pilot in WWII, one fought at the Battle of the Bulge, and one fought in Korea, and I didn’t get a chance to ask all of them in what capacity they had served, but it didn’t matter, they were all veterans and they gave up a portion of their life for this country.
Here they were with me.
More later, Grandson.
Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.