Veteran’s Day. It seems like a pretty simple concept—a day set aside to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. But sometimes the simplest of concepts are the ones we overlook, and it’s sometimes easy to forget that a lot of people have died in their service, and countless others have made different kinds of sacrifices, though many of those sacrifices were no less permanent.
I think about these things, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I have some mixed emotions surrounding the entire idea of military service. I don’t agree with everything our leaders ask our military men and women to do. I certainly don’t agree with some of the cruelty inflicted on others in the name of “patriotism” or “duty”. But I still recognize the need for armed forces and I know that I could never step up and be part of the group that provides that line of defense. So I am truly grateful for those that can and do.
November 11 is also my husband’s birthday, so that’s twice the reason to celebrate him, as he also served in the Navy in his youth. Tonight, I decided to skip class and make my work holiday an all-day holiday with the added benefit of spending the entire day with Brian. And I’ve been seeing the commercials all weekend for the Golden Corral offer of a free meal for all veterans, so we decided to head over there for dinner.
When we pulled into the parking lot, we were amazed by the line of people streaming out the door. I mean, when is there a line at Golden Corral? Of course, a free meal is a good incentive for people to come out, but I don’t think that’s all it was. As we waited in line, I heard people talking to each other about their experiences while serving, whether war or peace time, huge events or daily grinds. It was amazing to me how easily these strangers related to each other, even when their stories were opposite ends of the spectrum. Different branches, different generations, different experiences, none of it mattered. These people were connected, and it was kind of cool to see.
When we finally made our way to the front of the line and it was our turn to be seated, we were asked if we would mind sharing a table. That’s not what you expect when you head out to dinner, and I can’t say I was immediately thrilled with the idea, but of course we said it would be fine. We ended up at a six-top table, sharing with two other couples. Now, as I’ve likely mentioned before, I’m really kind of an introvert, and unexpectedly having dinner with four complete strangers caused me a moment of anxiety, especially when I ended up sitting in the middle.
But, I was pleasantly surprised by the enjoyable evening. And I was even more surprised to find that other than a basic inquiry as to which branch each veteran had served, the conversation really had little to do with being a veteran. We talked about families and travel and sports and just really minor chit-chat. It was nice. And it made me think that maybe all those strangers in line weren’t connected because they were veterans, but maybe just because they were people. Maybe the free meal just gave everybody an excuse to come out and mingle with people they wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet. Maybe if we could just manage to carry that same feeling of camaraderie and familiarity into more parts of our daily lives, we could solve a lot of problems in today’s world.
So, while I’m still truly grateful to these men and women for the service they have provided at some point in their lives, and I’m grateful to Golden Corral for offering a nice recognition of that service, I’m also newly grateful for a renewed sense of hope that we’re not destined to live in a country driven by anger and separatism, but can still find a way to come together to make a positive difference in the current state of affairs. And maybe getting this country out of the rather dark spot it’s in and back into the light would be the very best way to honor our veterans.