I wear, three out of four seasons, my father-in-law’s old Army jacket, with pride and gratitude. The jacket is over 50 years old and is a great conversation piece. Veterans of all ages ask about it and appreciate the family history attached to it. After talking with the vets, I always thank them for their service and wish them a good day.
Thursday night, my husband and I were at dinner with some friends when an older gentleman approached our table. He saw the patch on the sleeve of my jacket and asked if I knew the story of the patch. (I suspect most people think I picked up the jacket at Good Will and am trying to be ‘cool’ by wearing it). Anyway, I told him that the jacket belonged to my husband’s father, who was a tank man stationed at Fort Knox. The gentleman’s eyes lit up and he said he, too, was stationed at Fort Knox and later went to serve two tours in Vietnam. After a brief chat, we wished him a good night and he returned to his own party. Chuck, my awesome husband, made arrangements to cover the gentleman’s party’s wine and dessert.
Fifteen minutes passed and the party as a group stopped by our table to thank us for our generousity. We said it was nothing and wished them a good night. The gentleman said he had something for me and dropped a Purple Heart coin into my hand. I told him I couldn’t accept it but he insisted that I could and made me promise to keep it in my jacket pocket. I was overwhelmed by his generousity, thanked him profusely and cried tears of gratitude, not just for the gift of the coin but for the man’s service.
I’ve always held servicemen, both current and retired, close to my heart. Besides my father-in-law’s service, my side of the family boasts a Marine and a graduate of the Naval Academy. Our country owes so much to the brave men and women who serve and protect our freedoms. These selfless individuals (and their families) sacrifice much for very little in return.
I wear my father in law’s Army jacket with pride and gratitude. But with the coin, I now feel an even stronger connection to our veterans. I have a physical reminder of what it means to have Courage. Honor. Committment. I feel challenged to live up to these values. I will not let the gentleman down, just has he, and many others before and after him, did not let his fellow soldiers, unit, or country down. Challenge accepted. And thank you for your service.