I would have sworn I wouldn't add a Veterens Day entry, let alone a two in one day entry.
Sweet mercy. There is a way to realize the shallowness of your thinking and living.
Go to a Veterans Day ceremony held outside of your second choice of watering holes. No kidding, the boy who runs this club did a wonderful job in bringing together bagpipes, veterans, and the US Navy.
The bagpipes wheezed out Amazing Grace, the various captains and commanders read greetings and Veterans Day greetings from the President, Joint Chiefs, sundry Admirals and Generals.
It was all very military. Which is to say incredibly scripted. About as interesting as drying concrete.
They read a list of veterans. From way far back to the present. They had accumulated the names by passing out cards in the bar before hand, fill out the name of your favorite vet, a relative, someone you know.
I wrote down my Dad's name.
They read it. Senior Outfoxed, 1941 to 1945, US Army. Drill Sargent. Yes. It was expected, it was done in the hum drum of a suburban bar, outdoors, in a parking lot. The Budweiser trucks were queing up. The car traffic was respectfully quiet but present nonetheless. There were military men in dark dress uniforms, a flag. Bagpipers.
An eighty year old WW2 vet attended. A token of the age. They picked him up at his house and carried him over for free chow and a beer. Bring your hat. The VFW one with a few pins on the side.
And until they decided to give him a flag, I was behind dark glasses and relatively unengrossed. Waiting for the free hot dogs, I was. Sipping a beer at noon.
A line of six Navy petty officers and officers of another kind lined up. Passed a folded flag from hand to hand, and saluted it as it went. Not the quick, snappy salute. They squared up, saluted, and just kind of let the hand die on the way down, like a fading sort of energy. Slow, on the way down.
The requirement seemed to be to make eye contact, officer to officer, as the flag passed down the line and the salutes died slow. One young lass, a petty officer, a pretty officer with huge brown eyes. stuck the next in line with a look. It was a look of seriousness, of honor, of genuine pain for the dead that the day was about. In a parking lot, under a blue sky with a warm sun, with a vet older than any of us sitting patiently for his flag.
It very well could have been my Dad.
I sidled out of the small crowd that observed this canned proceeding and went around the corner of the bar. I cried like I haven't cried in years, the tears just flowing behind Bolle sunglasses that cost enough to feed a village in Somalia for a week. Fucking baby boomer losing it by a dumpster in a strip mall. There was lump in the throat, and I couldn't have stopped what I was doing for any man, for any reason, for any theory.
I heard applause from the crowd left behind and understood that the ceremony was over, and they had turned the throng loose on the hot dog buffet and the beer.
The old vet sat, cane over the back of his chair, flag in lap. Watched from behind dark glasses of his own, a gently shaking hand betraying the Parkinsons which was taking him over.
There was no hot dog for him.
I went to get a beer and stopped in front of him, a frail white haired man who may not have known exactly where he was, or why.
I offered my hand to him, without words. He looked a little surprised, I knew him not at all. He took my hand gently, and I was careful not to squeeze, to hurt the hand of an elder.
I think he knew. He looked for just a brief moment, the eyes gone milkey and obscure behind the tinted lenses.
Yeah. I think he knew that he was my Dad, and a few other Dads, for a moment. That he was my very own hero, and had a flag to prove it.
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