I was coming home from breakfast today and feeling blessed, thankful and a bit sentimental. I decided to drive off the beaten path and go by the VFW hall that was such a central part of my childhood. It was strange to see how much smaller the building and the property seemed to my adult eyes. It’s not my first drive past the place as an adult and yet it still gave me pause.
In that moment I could hear the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the busy place. I could close my eyes and see my friends and I running around, dancing by the jukebox and listening to the stories of our elders. I remember how excited I was to create a Jr. Girl’s Unit with my Mom. It was something we did that bonded us a bit more deeply to each other and to the community we loved and enjoyed.
I could almost smell the aftershave of all the heroes of my childhood as they would buy me a candy bar or ruffle my curly hair. I remember feeling safe there. Safe in the care of these adults who drank beer, watched sports on the TV, and told stories of yesteryear. But they did way more than that in my life. They taught me to honor the flag, to appreciate the sacrifices of those who traveled to faraway lands to fight and protect the freedoms that I often forgot I enjoyed. They showed me what service was and walked hand-in-hand with me as I learned those lessons. They created a fun and safe environment for my naive childhood to blossom.
Yes, I could hear them, and smell them, and feel them again today as I drove past that vacant building. It made this crisp, sunny autumn day come alive for me in a different way.
And then I remembered the season – I remembered standing outside the grocery store selling those little paper poppies in remembrance of these heroes. And I smiled, in anticipation and hope that someone will be standing at our grocery store this week with poppies. I will buy one and keep it with me as a token of thank you for those who came before. Thank you to my Grandpas – Jim and Juel, and my Dad. Those brave, loyal, tender, hardworking men who influenced my childhood and my life. I am blessed to have them shape my world and to embed a deep love of country, heroes, and family.
This week as we celebrate Veteran’s Day in the US – I honor those heroes who have been in my life – those of my childhood and the friends and neighbors that walk in my world today.
Be blessed heroes!
~ Barbara Bernard Miller