Veterans Day 2021: “It’s my honor, sir.”

Tuesday, September 21, Maine was miles away in our rearview mirror. Sadly, we said goodbye to our friends, the Halsteads, in Cape Newagen on Monday.

For our drive back to Virginia, we opted not to hug the traditional traffic scrum down the East Coast. This was a two day trek. We cut across Connecticut on I-84, kept going into New York state, and eventually stopped for the night just across the Pennsylvania line.

On Tuesday morning, in Scranton we connected with I-81, and made the turn south.

Now, I-81 isn’t stress free. We had a couple of heart palpitation moments with clueless lane drifters. But, the landscape is more appealing.

I can only imagine what this land was like when road construction started. Now, I reckon the little towns along the way that are still sprawl free of hamburger rows and big box stores value their short-lived solitude.

With Maryland and West Virginia behind us, we worked our way back into Virginia.

We discussed getting off I-81 to take an even slower pace to Richmond, and then an idea hit us. Might now be a good time to explore the The Green Valley Book Fair in Mt. Crawford? Despite gray skies and some raindrops, the Commander Supreme, quickly charted our course for making this stop.

If you love books, this is a dangerous place to pause. It is quite possible bibliophiles could stress out the suspension system on their vehicle loading it down with books, or at the very least jeopardize their financial stability.

According to their website, The Green Valley Book Fair is a discount book outlet where customers can save 90% off retail price. Here are some additional numbers to consider: 25,000 feet of book space, 60 categories, 30,000 titles, inventory of 500,000 books, and thankfully, since 1970, their heart for books hasn’t changed.

Of course, the Commander Supreme found multiple bargains for our grandchildren, and while I was tempted to fill up a cart, I settled on one book—Veterans Voices: Remarkable Stories of Heroism, Sacrifice, and Honor.

A National Geographic published book, it is authored by Robert H. Miller and Andrew Wakeford. A book about war isn’t supposed to be beautiful, but this one is.

For me, one appeal is looking deep into the faces of each Veteran, but there is a deeper pull—the heart of their humbling stories. Their stories are powerful for many reasons, but sacrifice is a common theme.

From October 15-30, our church hosted a team of fifteen Veterans from the nonprofit, Team Rubicon. These men and women were in Richmond to assist with the logistical supply coordination for Afghan refugee families. This team came from all over America to give back their essential skills to people in need—more sacrifice.

On Saturday, November 6, a team of eight from our church traveled to Woodland Cemetery. Woodland is a historic African-American cemetery that for many years had suffered from improper care. Since 2018, leaders in Richmond and Henrico County have been on a mission to clear the years of neglect.

Our team quickly learned the historical importance of this cemetery, and we worked diligently to improve the section we were assigned. While there, we were informed that a group of volunteers would be placing American flags at grave sites where the deceased were recognized as military Veterans.

I watched as the team scattered themselves throughout Woodlands’ acreage. At one point, I took a break to interact with one of the flag planters. This kind lady gave me a brief background of how the organization started. When I thanked her for her time and the placement of the flags, she responded—“My honor, sir.”

In the layout design of Veterans Voices, the authors feature a quote from each Veteran as they begin to tell the Veteran’s story.

Don Thieme, was an Army platoon leader in the Vietnam War. “He was responsible for the lives of 30 to 40 men. His goal was to get all of his men back home alive.” (Miller, Wakeford)

Of course, the war didn’t cooperate. Lieutenant Thieme saw it all in losing members of his platoon.

But, Lieutenant Thieme’s quote struck me: “In the worst conditions, there’s a lot of humanity.”

Lieutenant Thieme’s words made me think about America’s current internal divided conditions. I pray we can regain the dignity of our elusive humanity.

Today, Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11, 2021, I encourage you to seek out our Veterans. And if you encounter a Veteran, simply say—“thank you for serving our country.”

If you hear back—“Thank you, it was my honor,” then you, me, we, us can never ever forget the sacrifice in that response.

For that sacrifice is America’s existence.

American flag at a Veteran’s grave Woodland Cemetery Henrico County, Virginia 11/6/2021 photo by Bill Pike

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