"As a veteran, I am proud of this band of brothers and sisters who served. I am proud of our services, and I am proud of how this country now treats our returning veterans."
Yesterday, in the midst of a very soggy morning, my wife and I were once again at the Great Minnesota Get Together. Why again? I had booth duty at the Jeff Johnson booth and the Doug Wardlow booth. Plus - it was Military Appreciation Day at the fair. If you are a veteran of any service for any length of time, or are currently serving, you owe it to yourself to come to the fair next year on Military Appreciation Day. The Minnesota State Fair does it up right.
There is something about the bond of military (both former and current) members that defies explanation. Most all vets are drawn to each other like old friends - even though they had never met. It really does not matter the service, the length of years served, or the time frame served. The bond exists, and yesterday at the fair, I could see that bond over and over and over again. It was wonderful.
First off, the price of admission yesterday. If you were under 65 and a vet, you saved $5 on a ticket to get in. Over 65, you saved $3 (because as a senior, your tickets are already discounted). Right by the grandstand, in a large open area, was a HUGE display of veterans services. Every veteran organization you could imagine was there. And it was PACKED with vets. All ages, all services. Once again, it was wonderful.
Did the morning rain keep the veterans away? Na. They just put on a poncho of some type, their service hat, and did the fair. All morning long, I could see vets saluting each other as they passed by, shaking hands, stopping to chat. It was like a family reunion of Uncle Sam's finest.
But in the joy of the day, I was also reminded of our Gold Star families. Families of service members who gave all, and never came home. This day was for them also. As we celebrated the freedoms we have to attend an event like our State Fair, none of this came cheap or free. Our freedoms are truly not free. Paid for in time away from family, long duty watches in lonely and far away places, sometimes in combat, and yes - sometimes being killed in combat.
I also thought about our wounded warriors. Those who came home with the visible scars of battle. Those who came home with the invisible scars, such as PTSD. I think of the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day, due to untreated mental illness. I think of the veterans I saw yesterday who were confined to motorized chairs due to lose of limbs.
As a veteran, I am proud of this band of brothers and sisters who served. I am proud of our services, and I am proud of how this country now treats our returning veterans. The days of coming home disrespected after the Viet Nam era are gone, forgotten, and forgiven. We are now living in a new day.
Most veterans, including myself, have a common motto: If I could, I would do it all over again. Amen fellow veterans, amen to that.