A few nights ago, I had dinner with some friends. As we were talking over this and that, one of my friends mentioned that she had conversed with a World Ward II Veteran a few months previously. She was volunteering as an usher at our local theatre, as was this man. They had a few minutes before the patrons started arriving, and they began talking about life experiences and this and that. The man mentioned that he had served in World War II, and Sylvia, (who is easily one of the most polite, considerate people I have ever met) took the opportunity to thank him for doing that great service for her and for our country.
The veteran accepted her thanks very graciously, but he mentioned that she was only the second person to ever thank him for that service.
As I think back over the experiences I've had with veterans, I'm ashamed to admit that I have never thanked a single one of them. I've listened with interest to their war stories (the few that can actually bring themselves to tell war stories), and I've ooohed and aaahed at the appropriate moments, which seemed to please them almost universally. I've been lucky to have had a few experiences where I've sung patriotic songs for and with groups of American Legionnaires as well. For all that though, I've yet to actually say the words of thanks.
Obviously, that's no good. So I have a plan. The next time I find myself in the company of a WWII Veteran (or any veteran, for that matter), I'm going to find a way to open my mouth (even if I'm feeling shy), and I'm going to thank him(or her). Precisely what I say may have to vary according to the moment, but I think it will sound something like this:
"Thank you for leaving your home and going to a strange land, and thank you for participating in what was almost surely the most gruesome, scary, awful experience that you could ever have imagined. Thank you for doing that for us, and especially for me."
I don't tend to run into veterans every day, and so I wonder if I'll be able to remember all of that when the time comes. Somehow I doubt it. Still, I'm going to try. And if it turns out that I'm only able to remember two words of the whole speech, as long as they are the right two words, something tells me that that will be all that really matters.