Many moons ago, when my husband and I were still young and green, I waited tables at the best pizza place in town. Kevin was fresh out of the Marine Corp, he worked and went to night school. We were pleased as punch to be building our American dream. We lived in a tidy little house with our only child. If you stood in the hallway and twirled around in a circle, you could see every inch of it.
I worked for a kind, Italian family, and had a couple of girlfriends on staff as well. We were continually swamped and made great tips. We enjoyed ourselves as much as you can while simultaneously carrying a tray of 12 beers, or having so many tables to serve that you stood in awe for a millisecond. There will always be that one person who screams at you for having to wait, you learn to smile and apologize.
Covering up my own suffering
That afternoon as I prepared for work, every move my body made reminded me that I had blisters scattered over numerous parts of my body. My ears were sizzled, my toes, and my forearms. A disorder with a long meandering name causes my skin to burn as if the sun is a campfire radiating too close to my body.
The worst outbreak is always my first sun exposure every spring. I enjoyed a fabulous day of gardening with my three year old daughter the day before, time to pay the piper. I was pretty good at hiding my blisters, even though it made them hurt all the more.
At work my long hair needed to be pulled up, and shirt sleeves were short, there was no hiding.
This disorder is a genetic contribution to my DNA, caused by my Dad’s exposure to the toxic defoliant called Agent Orange dioxide. He was exposed while he served overseas during the Vietnam war. He was a land surveyor, standing in the midst of the lush green foliage as planes overhead sprayed the men to soaking with liquid death, over and over again.
Hiding my condition doesn’t always work
The devastating conditions these veterans suffered, as well as their children, range in intensity from a mere nuisance as mine is, to debilitating handicaps and death. They were refused medical treatment, or acknowledgement for the barrage of incapacitating atrocities that robbed so many of their health. The untold suffering endures for so many, the subsequent generations continue to be maimed.
It was just about closing time when a dozen men poured through the door of the pizza parlor. A boisterous crew of middle aged friends, ending a man’s day out of golfing. Faces red from a long day, their laughter and joking were contagious. These groups were notoriously great tippers, I was pleased that they were seated in my section.
I made my way around the large red checkered table delivering drinks and gathering hot wing orders. I placed a frosted mug of beer in front of the last gentleman at the table and sat patiently poised with my ink pen and pad of paper ready to take his order. He looked at me sideways, his lips curled into a smirk and shouted in a booming voice “What the hell? Looks like you put cigarettes out all up and down your arms!”
I was prepared for people to scream at me that the edge of their pizza was burned, that they waited too long for their salad, but not this. True, I was burned. I wanted to ask him how his freedom tasted, but clearly he would not have understood. Looking back now, I giggle at the thought of my Dad coincidentally enjoying a beer in the pizza parlor at a nearby table that night. Dare I say, the offending gentleman would have tasted the price of freedom in the parking lot.
Veterans face untold sufferings
As a result of the congenital health conditions that my siblings and our children inherited due to the Vietnam war, I know just enough to know, that I don’t know a thing about what veterans and their families endure for our freedom. I am writing this post to honor the unique contribution that veterans bestow on our country. I am ashamed at the pittance of recognition that they are offered for their utmost dedication.
I am grateful for those who choose to court calamity on our behalf. For those who slide bravery on every day when they wake to ensure our liberty. Men and women who dare to seek what is admirable, in a society that covets easy. I cannot fathom what that level of sacrifice truly encompasses. The trickle down of consequence to their family, affliction that cannot be untangled, time forfeited for the sake of upholding these truths that we hold dear in our land. The America that our forefathers bled a sea of red to build, stacked with one sacrificial soul upon another.
Veterans hardly ever get the recognition they deserve
I do not know where you are, I cannot comprehend all that you endure, but please know that I am endlessly grateful. I remember you. When my belly is full and yours is empty, when I am in the air conditioning and you are roasting in a dessert, when I am snug in bed and you have laid in a muddy ditch for hours being shot at. I thank God for you, and all that you continue to uphold for our sake.
I looked up the word hero in the dictionary, it was not what I anticipated. “A person who is the object of extreme devotion.” Next, I looked up the term devotion “Devotion is a constant regard and dedication for someone”.
The veterans of The United States of America deserve our extreme devotion. We should be dedicated to ensuring that they are respectfully cared for, receive what they are entitled to, and be honored for their service. It is our duty to commend those who walk among us, and remember those who never made it home.
My deepest gratitude to veterans
To all of the Vietnam Veterans, my deepest gratitude to you all on this day of remembrance. You are American heroes. I am grieved for the lack of welcome, and disrespect that you received when you returned home. Please do not let that tarnish the significance of your sacrifice for our country. The legacy that you leave behind is yours alone, determined by your diligent service.
My Mom recalled what a shame it was, all those years ago. Dad came home, there was no parade or fanfare. The bravest of the brave simply took off his uniform and hung it in the closet, and that was that. He never spoke of the war again.
Call me a dreamer, but maybe someday, I would love to be the force behind a rally to give our Vietnam veterans the welcome home they never received. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Until then, thank you for your service and may God bless you all.
Tell a veteran you are grateful today
This post is in honor of my Daddy, killed in an accident years ago. I regret that I never did thank him for his service in Vietnam, or for the many years of suffering he endured from Agent Orange for our sake. This is a reminder for us all, tell them today.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13