I wiped away tears yesterday morning after going through the drive-through at Starbuck’s (my guilty pleasure).
It was a lovely day. My window was open, and I was behind a gentleman with his window rolled down, too. I noticed his license plate frame engraved with the words “Air Force” and “Vietnam vet.” I waved my arm out the window, smiled, and yelled “thank you for your service,” pointing to his license plate. Mentioned that my Dad was a retired Air Force vet who had served in Vietnam. He nodded his head.
When I got to the window to pay for my coffee, the barista said there was no charge. The driver in front of me had picked up my tab.
I was surprised and startled. I smiled. Then I cried, all the way home.
Today – Memorial Day – I honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. They gave the ultimate sacrifice. They won’t be forgotten.
I grew up as part of a military family. My dad was in the Air Force, and as an Air Force “brat,” every couple of years we moved. I especially remember Kansas, where I experienced snow for the first time as a first-grader (along with my parents, who were from New Orleans), and moving to Spain, where I learned Spanish as a third-grader. We also lived in Tucson, Arizona, home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I loved the mountains, returning years later to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona. While we were in Tucson, Dad was sent to Vietnam for a year. To this day, he’s never said much about his experience at Da Nang.
The last place we moved to was Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, where I completed high school. My father retired from the military in his 40s, embarked on a second career as a machinist in Wichita Falls, and lives there today.
On this Memorial Day, the memories come flooding back. My thoughts turn to all the brave men and women who gave their lives serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and to those serving today. Today I’m thinking about my nephew Derek Herrera, an active-duty Marine Special Operations Officer shot in 2012 leading his team on patrol in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Today I remember so much.
Let’s never forget the sacrifices so many men, women and their families have made in defense of our nation’s security and freedom.