He always has a big smile on his face, when he comes into my workplace. Today was no different, in that regard. But instead of his usual Clemson orange polo shirt, he was wearing a dress shirt covered in pictures of the U.S. flag and the Statue of Liberty. I told him he looked very patriotic, as he walked past me, grinning, and greeting all of my co-workers. My supervisor, whom he loves to tease, wasn’t there to see his cheerful smile, because she had left the building, on an errand.
I knew that he had been in the military at some point, as well as having been an ROTC member before he graduated from Clemson University. I suspect he served in Vietnam, but I’m not completely sure. Since he never mentioned his military past, I didn’t find out about it, until I found his bootprints on the Military Heritage Plaza, below Tillman Hall. The tiger print inside the heel of one of the footprints is supposed to represent that he continues to teach at Clemson, his alma mater, even to this day.
When he arrived at the cash register, I thanked him for his service, but he neatly turned it on me, thanking ME for my everyday service in the cafe. But then, he assured me that he would do it again, today, if he was needed. He would serve gladly, just as he did before. And when I mentioned seeing his bootprints on the plaza, he protested that it had been his wife’s idea to have those done. : )
I know that Memorial Day is a day to remember all that have lost their lives, serving their country, in every war of our nation’s history. But while we take the time to remember those that fell in service to their country, who sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms that we love, remember those that live on. They don’t ask for praise, just as this veteran doesn’t. They’re humble about their service, and proud to have been able to serve.
And even when they don’t ask for it, we can still thank them for it. May God continue to bless our troops, wherever they are, and give thanks for all our military heroes, both past and present.