Funny thing happened on my way to taking my dog for a walk this morning.
When it gets hot like this (90+ degrees) I take my Chesapeake/Lab mix "Sam" for a walk in one of the local parks located along the Mississippi, so he can swim and cool off.
When I got to the park, the parking lot was filled up, but not with your expected holiday revelers, rather with veterans there for a memorial service.
As I walked by the gathering towards the trail (the service hadn't yet started) a park worker came up to me and asked if I would be staying for the outdoor service, that my dog was more than welcome, and then gave me a program.
I told her thank you, but Sammy needed his walk and I didn't want to disrupt the service.
I did my walk with Sam (letting him swim in the river for a cool-off) and then proceeded to make my way out of the park.
Well, the service was going on right at the entrance to the hiking trail down to the river, and just as I exited, the National Anthem began to play.
I quietly took my place standing in the back, waiting for the Anthem to finish, looking towards the Stars & Stripes on one flagpole, and also the four other flagpoles adorned with various other service, regiment, and POW/MIA flags.
The music was piped in, but the the words were delivered incredibly beautifully be the audience of maybe 60 mostly WWII vets with some Vietnam vets mixed in (most of the men in full uniform).
I was pretty awestruck, and as the anthem ended, I noticed that at least three men within 20 feet of me were crying.
In an instant, I knew that I was not going to disrespect any of these men by quietly sneaking off with my dog at this point.
Needless to say, I stayed for the whole service.
I won't get into too much detail about what was included in this hour long service; except to say it included beautiful and heartwrenching personal accounts delivered by both WWII and Vietnam vets, some prayer, song, poetry, and a placing of wreaths. The service finished with a 21 gun salute, and then a solemn rendition of "Taps".
Really brought home what this day is all about, in a big way.
As I tried to quietely make my exit after the service (I kind of felt like an intruder in a holy place), a couple of the vets came up to me to admire my dog. I told them how touched I was by what I had seen and heard, and thanked them personally for their service and sacrifice.
Sadly, one of the vets then actually thanked me
and pointed out that I was probably one of the few people there who wasn't a vet or a family member of a vet.
I sheepishly thanked him again, and told him I'd be back next year, and then made my exit.
Like I said, this accidental encounter really hit home with me, and I will be going back next year.
It sounds so inadequate on a message board, but...
"A truly heartfelt Thank You
to all the Veterans out there."
Note: The funny thing is, that my dog Sam usually can't sit still outside for more than a few minutes, but he sat or lied down quietly for the whole service, as if sensing the weight of what was going on. I was very worried when I saw they were going to do the rifle salute, but I couldn't very well leave at that point; so I just kept a tight leash and tried to calm him, and he was fine.