American FlagBy Robert Gillis

Published in the Foxboro Reporter 2006, 2008 and Boston City Paper, December 2006

Veteran’s Day 2006, New York City, Times Square, Planet Hollywood Restaurant. My wife Sue, her cousin, and I, have just enjoyed our dinner, after a whirlwind one-day vacation in the Apple. We’re leaving Planet Hollywood, and up the stairs come four young Marines in full dress uniform, all bedecked with medals and decorations.

Sue and her cousin are on the way out, and I excuse myself for a moment, I said I’ll be right back. I went back upstairs to the four Marines. I went to their table, and I said to them, “Excuse me gentlemen, I’m sorry to bother you.” And they looked up at me. I said, “I just wanted to thank you for your service.”

And all four of them immediately got up, as I was raising my hand to shake it. Four firm handshakes later, and all four of them said the same thing, “Thank you.” And I said, “Guys no, thank you. Especially today, Veteran’s Day, Thank you.”

During the last Foxboro Founder’s Day parade, there were some of the National Guardsmen walking in the parade. I put the camera down for a moment, and I waved at them to get their attention, I just said, “Gentlemen, gentlemen,” and they looked at me, I said, “Thank you. Thank you for your service.” And they waved back and said, “You’re welcome.”

And it’s always with that little humble smile. it’s just the gratitude. Their responses are always the same. It’s their job, and they appreciate the gratitude, but they never make a big deal out of it.

On Veteran’s Day, to run into those Marines, it was serendipity, it was fate. To thank them for their service, well, it felt great.

I never wore a uniform, but I have tremendous respect for the people who do. I also have adopted the habit that whenever I see someone in uniform, to stop and thank them.

Regardless of your politics, support the soldier.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with the war or not. But support the soldiers.

Home and abroad, those young men and women are serving us. In large ways and small, they are all fighting for, and supporting, our freedom. Whether they serve in an office or base here in the states, or in a tank somewhere in the desert, whether they walk a post here or anywhere else, they serve us. They protect us. God bless them. God protect them.

If there’s someone in your family who served, thank them. You’ll especially find the people of the previous generations, of your dad and your grandfather’s generations, they don’t talk about it much. If that’s the case, just say, “Thank you for your service,” and mean it.

If you know someone who’s in the service, write them a letter. Call them if you’re able, or send them an email, so many soldiers can get emails these days. Thank them for their service.

We have American service people in Korea, and Afghanistan, in Germany and Iraq and all around the world. Thank them.

At this time of the year when we count our blessings, say a prayer, or have a good thought, for our men and women in uniform.

God bless them and keep them safe.

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