Over a year ago, my family and I stumbled upon a community event. Every year our town hosts a Veterans’ Day ceremony and I remember telling my wife, “This would be a good event to expose our students to.” At that point, I made a reminder on my phone to research out the dates for the following year (2013) and to make sure that I place that date on our school calendar.
Well, on Thursday, November 7th, the town of Gilbert hosted its 9th annual Veterans’ Day ceremony. Our students, armed with a smile and a handwritten thank you note, attended the festivities.
I didn’t know what to expect. Frankly, I laid awake the night before somewhat nervous and praying that God would bless our efforts. I wasn’t expecting anything big; I just wanted the field trip to go off without a hitch.
You know how God is? He wasn’t going to just have us “get by” with smiles and notes. What He did for and through our students was nothing short of amazing!
I instructed each student to hand their note to a veteran, shake their hand, look them in the eye, and simply say, “Thank you for your service.” Without question or objection, our students scattered through that beautiful town hall lawn with a veteran locked in their sights!
Then one by one, these men and women that have been, at times, hardened by the horrific experiences they must have had, began to weep. They began to hug our students! Many asked for their pictures to be taken alongside the author of their “thank you notes.” Some promised to frame these pieces of paper! On and on, the emotional outpouring of gratitude was bestowed upon our students.
Most of our students don’t completely understand the impact they just made. A lot of today’s youth perceive that our veterans’ experiences are similar to what they see on the latest Call of Duty or Battlefield video game. And today they realized – it’s not!
These men and women, along with their families have sacrificed a great deal to preserve the freedom we have today. Saying “thank you” doesn’t seem to be enough, but it’s certainly better than not saying or doing anything at all.
I don’t know what will become of those notes and conversations our students had with veterans’ today. But God does. I know that the simple act of smiling, shaking their hand, and handing them a note made a big difference today – in both lives! Keep honoring, keep thanking, keep serving those who have given of themselves so that we may have the freedom to make a difference today.