Our household homeostasis recently went through a bit of an upheaval. Back in October, my wife blew out her ACL and MCL in her knee. She was supposed to go under the knife right away in November, but COVID decided to visit our house for Halloween, so that was pushed back – with the next available date in early January.
What a way to start the new year.
She’s still in the first two weeks of bed rest post-surgery, so I have spent my days at home instead of the office (and a few nights at the office instead of at home). The staff here at the office has picked up on my slack beautifully.
On Jan. 15 I received a call in the morning from Tim Salzswedel, wondering if I could send someone to the American Legion in the afternoon for a reunion of the local Desert Storm veterans. It has now been 31 years, but the 30th anniversary reunion in 2021 had been canceled.
Well, I was the only person possibly available. I debated not attending and having pictures submitted, as I have kids at home to take care of (let alone the NFL playoffs). Instead, I decided to stop out, though not knowing what to expect, nor knowing how long I would be there (5 minutes? 30? An hour?)
I was there for three hours, and I was very glad I went.
I hung out along the back wall, near either doorway. I wanted to be a fly on the wall and listen to every veteran that got up and tell their story – their rank, their role, length of service, and an update on their lives after returning home. One by one they took turns: Driver, medic, maintenance. The list went on. There was a moment of silence for those that have passed away since coming back 31 years ago.
Then there was some mingling; a few drinks were poured; friends caught up in huddled, private conversations. I listened intently to different groups, one by one. Stories were shared of their service time together. Their deployment. Even funny stories in the years that followed.
After dinner, which Tim graciously encouraged me to join in and have something to eat, nine veterans received a Quilt of Valor. The ceremony brought a few tears, as well as a few smiles and laughs. At the end, there was an applause from the guests and fellow soldiers in the audience.
More mingling followed. The mood was pleasant, and as a critter hanging out in the shadows, I found myself smiling over and over again. I flipped through the pages of some of the photo albums that were brought along. I perused the donated raffle items. I even talked to a few soldiers myself, some I knew, and others I didn’t – though the most common question I received was “Who are you? We we’re trying to figure out who you are.” I just smiled and answered politely, taking zero offense.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for our veterans and military personnel. Whether that makes me a good American or not is a question that never fazed me. All soldiers – veterans and present day alike – put themselves in harms way for the sake of our country. Whether they are holding a gun, or shipping supplies of guns, or something else entirely – the entire military complex is one big team, and everyone has a role to play.
Coincidentally or not, the first parade I remember as a child was not a big Cheese Days parade, or a Disney World parade, or a homecoming parade, or the football team returning from a state championship, or a 4th of July or St. Patrick’s Day parade. The first parade I have a memory from was as a 6-year-old in 1991, wearing an American flag on my t-shirt, waving a little flag in my hand standing on the terrace at East School Park, two blocks from my great-grandma’s house. That parade was the “welcome home” parade that the citizens of City of Monroe showed up for, welcoming their family, friends and neighbors home from a military conflict.
I heard a few veterans talk about riding into town, and that feeling of gratitude, respect and warmth they received seeing the Square packed to the brim, and the lines of people sitting and standing all the way to the fairgrounds. Hearing that even made me feel better. I was only six – there was literally nothing else I could for my country at the time than simply stand in the long line and show my thanks. It was the first moment of patriotism I felt in my life.
That means the banquet, 31 years later, brought me full circle. I was reunited in a way with this local group of heroes. All over again, this time as a self-aware adult, I was able to thank those in attendance personally for their service.
And to share not just my gratitude, but that of our community, we’re sharing a slew of moments I was able to capture from that evening over three pages in our B section of today’s paper. The photos will also be posted to our website and on Facebook. If you are also thankful and grateful, please “Like” and “Share” to continue promoting our mutual respect to the 1158.
– Adam Krebs is the editor of the Monroe Times and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.