Monday, August 3, 2009

Starting out Memorial Day

This is an email I sent out on May 24, 2009:

I have a bit of a funny story from last night to tell and then one hell of an emotional story from today to share with you.

With it being Memorial Day weekend, our radar is up even more so in making sure to look out for veterans. Last night we went out to eat and Taylor noticed 2 men sitting at a table and one had on a veteran hat. She went over, held out her hand to shake his and thanked him for his service. He just sat there and looked at her. She, thinking he might be hard of hearing, said out louder THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. He got this profoundly strange look on his face and said back to her, 'I am sorry, I am not a waiter and I don't work here'.

The look on Taylor's face was about the funniest I have ever seen! It obviously didn't register with him what she was thanking him for, but when he said that back to her, it didn't register to her what he was saying. Finally, she pointed at his hat and asked him if he REALLY served! She was serious, but I about spit out my pop because it was so funny! It all of the sudden came to him what she was thanking him for and he just laughed and hung his head down and shook it back and forth. It was just comical to watch, why he thought she thought he was a waiter, we will never know!

A bit later, another veteran came in and sat down at a table across from the other vets. I got up and gave each table gift cards we had to help pay for their meals. As we were leaving, the older vet came up to our table and thanked us for his meal. He told us that had never happened to him before. He kept saying how appreciative he was that a stranger would do that for him. I told him it was us who was appreciative and it just stuck in my mind and heart, a small gesture turned out to be something more then a small gesture.

Today, we went to a fund raiser for the WWll Honor Flights that Taylor has helped get money for, the group that flew her out to DC with them last year. It was at a small airport and it was a 'fly in' all you can eat pancake breakfast. They had there the 369. She is a Viet Nam veteran medical Huey. She has been lovingly restored back to original condition.

One of the guys that has been instrumental in getting her off the ground just so happens to be someone I went to school with. He is Army and flies the big bad boys of attack helicopters. Anyways, he was the pilot today and both Taylor and Tanner got the chance to go up. Taylor has a Viet Nam friend who was a crew chief on the Huey and he hasn't been up in one since he got back home, in 1968, and he got to go up with them as well.

They went up, with the doors open while flying and came back around and did a low fast fly over. I have to say, standing on the ground seeing that fly at you, not just hearing the THUMP THUMP THUMP but FEELING it, well it was a pretty amazing thing to see and feel. However, it was what happened after they landed that was by far the most emotional thing that has happened in awhile.

Dick got off the Huey and the emotions got the best of him. He broke down and cried. It wasn't just your normal cry though. You veterans know the cry I am talking about. It came from his very core. Taylor wrapped her little arms around him and I think for a minute, she was actually supporting him up. The only thing he could get out between the sobs was a guttural OH GOD, over and over again.

We just let him cry, we hugged him, but we let him cry. After several minutes of non stop sobbing, he was able to compose himself a bit to turn around and look at the Huey, rotors still turning. You could feel the power of it and the whirl of it was almost deafening. He then said something that hit us all standing around him. He started to cry again, and then he said 'all those boys we took out of the jungle, all those boys that never made it to be a dad or a grandpa' He then lost it again.

By now, several of the crew were surrounding him and they were all hugging and most were crying. A pain only they can share and only they know. While we were witnessing intense pain, we also knew we were witnessing intense healing as well. It was then, that we were able to step in and hug each one and say to each one WELCOME HOME. Dick said it was something he couldn't ever describe in words, but what he did say was that while he was up in the air, time stopped and he was transported back. He could feel, smell and every other sense there is, it is exactly what it was like for him before. Then the intense pain of knowing NOW what he lived through, what he saw, what he did, it was just almost to much. The pain of all his brothers that never made it back, it all came to a head for him, so many things he held back and held down, he had no control over. It overflowed his protective gait he said.

We just listened, crying, but listened. Then, he smiled. He said he never got a welcome home. In fact, he got just the opposite and it was very ugly. Since then, he has been told several times welcome home, and it was nice to hear. But today, as he stepped off that Huey, transported back into time, we were there to welcome him home and he said that was the first time he FELT it.

So, last night and today started off our Memorial weekend. A time to laugh, a time to feel pain, a time to reflect and be thankful for those that made it and for those that didn't, a time to witness healing.

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