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Heartfelt gratitude: Dana Warrior blogs about Veterans Day

Heartfelt gratitude, on Veterans Day, to those who serve ...

Whenever Veterans Day arrives, I feel renewed motivation to be part of my local community. I have annually brought the girls to our small town square, the Plaza, here in Santa Fe, N.M. Donning winter coats, with leaves crunching underfoot, we have listened to local dignitaries speak in honor of our veterans seated behind them. We’ve watched flyovers, salutes and parades with reverence. I’ve taught the girls the difference between Memorial Day, which honors service members who’ve fallen in action or are no longer with us, and Veterans Day, when we thank brave men and women for their service as they contribute in new ways to their local communities.

We proudly fly our flag at Casa de Warrior Girl on Veterans Day and set off for a tradition we began long ago to show our gratitude. Every year, the girls and I get dressed up and go to a favorite breakfast spot. We identify men and women displaying their service in uniform, on a T-shirt or hat. I send the girls over to thank them for their service, which is always received with warm appreciation from our veterans. I anonymously pay for all of the breakfasts of service members and their families, guaranteeing the servers generous tips as long as nobody knows who paid.

I always sit at my table and watch with a lump in my throat as our brave servicemen and women receive this tiny gift. I am humbled by their heroism and complete lack of entitlement for doing a job few others are prepared to do. Last year, a Vietnam War veteran figured out who paid, tracked me down in the parking lot, and flanked by his granddaughters, insisted on thanking me. I told him I had no idea what he meant, but when he grew serious, I hung my head so not to embarrass him with my tears. Finding respite, I kneeled to his precious grandbabies and said, “I did nothing today except be selfish. Your grandfather is a hero to me and millions of others across this country. My husband and other athletes are a different sort of hero, but your grandfather protected every one of us with his life. He might seem like ‘just’ your grandpa, but to me and every citizen, he’s so much more.”

When I rose to meet this battle-worn warrior’s gaze, there were tears welled in his strong eyes. I shook my head so I’d stay strong and simply said, “Thank you for the honor, sir.”

He gripped the hands of his warrior girls walking away. One asked, “Grandpa, do we know that lady?” He said, “Not before today, honey, but we do now.”

The communities we call home are the foundation of our lives. We are privileged to live among true heroes who are willing to fight for our homeland in all manners of crises. As we observe Veterans Day, let’s truly take notice of those it honors: our Veterans! Let’s do for them on one day what they made a career doing for us. Let’s embrace the Warriors among us who chose a life of service so that we may all live free. It costs very little to brighten the day of a local hero. Pay the check, buy a cup of coffee, bring baked goods, write a note, simply voice the words, “Thank you.” 

I believe the honor, integrity, valor and heart of men and women who have enlisted in every branch of our military deserve the distinction of ULTIMATE. I believe communities are bound tighter if we honor those who should never be forgotten. I believe we owe it to our veterans to go out of our way and meet them so they might know of our deep appreciation ... ALWAYS!

Thank you to all our brave men and women who so selflessly serve. You are mighty Heroes, indeed. 

xo, d

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