From: Elaine Slater Reese
Spring Green, Wis.
We stood in the shed as I explained how we needed his help on our latest project. He was interesting to talk with, and he definitely knew his stuff. But then I happened to notice his hat. “You were in the service, weren’t you?” I asked. Suddenly his face changed. His tone of voice changed. “Yes, I served two years in Viet Nam.” And he just stood there — obviously transferred back to another time — another world — another life.
After a few moments of silence, I looked him in the eye and gently said, “Thank you, sir. Thank you for serving America and for serving for each of us.” More silence —then I saw the beginning of the tears he was trying so desperately to hold back. More moments passed. Then in a quivering voice he said, “Thank you, thank you. No one ever said that to me before.” And I remembered all the things I had heard about how these particular vets were treated when they came home. Now it was not a page in a history book or an old newspaper. I couldn’t even think of words to describe how I felt — maybe guilty was the most logical one. More silence … then like a dam had broken and could no longer hold back the raging waters, his words gushed forth. I knew I was standing on some sort of hallowed ground. I could just tell he had not shared some of all this throughout all the years that had passed.
My mind was crazy with thoughts. “Dear God, dear God, what did we do?” And then “Dear God, what didn’t we do?” After some time, all was quiet again. I didn’t need to go home and read a history book on all this. I had just been on the battlefield. I had just heard the shots. I had just said goodbye to my best buddy. I just realized that all the blood on my chest was mine. We shook hands and there was a quick hug. We were each going back to our own worlds. But I knew both of them would somehow be different than hours before. I was blessed that he trusted me enough to share. I am blessed to never forget how important two little words — thank you — can be. God, I pray you will bless this particular veteran and every veteran who has blessed America and each of us with their service.