“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Veteran's Day Surprise

On Monday November 13, a Marine (…ok…former Marine…if there is such a thing…) friend of ours from our homeschool co-op, told us about Golden Corral’s “Veterans Appreciation Day”. According to the corporate website, Veterans eat dinner for free on the first Monday after Veterans Day. As it turned out, we also had some coupons for our kids, due to some academic achievements, from the same chain. So we all loaded up and went out to dinner.

We arrived some 20 minutes after the event began. There was already a line out the door and down the front of the building. An Air Force Lt. Colonel and Senior Master Sergeant were there opening the doors for people. An Air Force Jr. ROTC group helped wait tables, along with the Lions Club and the restaurant staff.

To be honest, I knew there were a lot of military people in our area. But, seeing the age range was surprising. There were single men. There were families. Some wore fatigues with their old uniform patches. Some wore ball caps with unit or vessel designations on them. Some wore their everyday clothes.

The thing that surprised me the most, was feeling like I belonged. I wasn’t alone. I have done many things over the years. I’ve been somewhat successful at most of it. I can truly say I have not done something catastrophic in any of my endeavors. But, no matter where I have gone, I have always felt like the odd man out. In general, those who have not served do not know what it means to be that committed. And, in our increasingly liberal, anti-military culture, well…But, that night, I belonged. I was in a place where we all understood the distant looks that went with the laughter. I was home.

My kids asked me why I kept getting this funny look on my face. I told them I was adjusting to being around family again. The Valour-IT competition, and this restaurant event, brought that home to me in a new way. No matter what branch of service we were in, we are all family.

This Veteran’s Day I did something new. I went to a family reunion of all the generations. I think it’s the first family reunion I was sincerely happy to attend.