Thank you for your service. Shortly before I retired from active duty in October, following a really tough day in the Pentagon I stopped by a local store to pick up a few items. With my mind still on the challenges of the day, I moved quickly through the store and was so focused on my task that I was oblivious to my surroundings. Since it was a Friday, I was in my battle dress uniform. When I turned around to head to the checkout counter, I noticed a young boy standing behind me. He looked up at me, saluted and said, “thank you for your service.” In that instant, I forgot about my tough day and my shopping. His simple greeting brought a much-needed smile to my face. I should have asked him his name but I did not. However, I will never forget him. In honor of AFA’s 70th Birthday, the AFA staff decided to thank those that have served our country.
At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I met a young woman who had suffered a stroke while deployed to Afghanistan. She was due for surgery in a week. I was struck by her positive outlook and hope for the future. I was also impressed with her Aunt who had been by her side since the incident. A mother I met was swelled with pride because her wounded Airman daughter had competed at the Air Force Warrior Games Trials.
We also paid a visit to Falcons Landing Military Retirement Community to meet and thank veterans who served. While there I struck up a conversation with an 86 year-old veteran. He was so grateful for our visit that he invited me to ride in his car to see his retirement house. A few minutes later, we entered his house that was full of family pictures, including those commemorating his service. When I thanked him for his service, his face lit up just like mine did when I encountered that young boy in the store.
During the visits, we provided AFA brochures, coins and awarded flags that had been flown over the Air Force Memorial.
During WWII, everyone had a neighbor, friend or relative that served in the military. Today, that is just the opposite. Fewer and fewer of our elected leaders have served. I have encountered Americans who don’t realize our country is currently at war. If you want to see the “deer in the headlights” look, stop someone on the street and ask if they are aware of the B-21. This is the world we live in and the gap between the public and the military will continue to widen.
That is why it is more important than ever that we educate the public on the importance of military service. That is why I ask you, during our 70th Birthday, to join me in thanking past and current military members and their families for their service.
Larry O. Spencer