By: Nick Aston | Category: Special Interest | Issue: November 2020
Nick Aston, Master Sergeant, U. S. Air Force Retired. Nick retired in 2002.
Approaching Thanksgiving, it’s time for us to make our annual mental lists of all the things we’re most thankful for. If you haven’t included freedom on your list, please allow me to suggest that you do.
There’s a bumper sticker that says, “If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a veteran.” Now that’s powerful. How many of our brave soldiers have given the ultimate sacrifice so we can live in this great country and enjoy the freedom we all share.
We have thousands of dedicated soldiers serving all around the world. I know they appreciate all the thoughts and prayers from those of us back here at home going on with our daily lives.
It’s difficult not to notice the large number of veterans in our midst. Many of them wear those familiar caps declaring what war they were in, or what ship they were on. My cap says, “Master Sergeant, U. S. Air Force Retired.”
And I wear it proudly.
Like many Veterans I have a shadowbox in which I display my medals, ribbons and badges. As you can imagine, I ended up with a rather large collection at the end of my 21 years. I served during the Vietnam War as well as Desert Storm. It’s pretty apparent when you see my shadowbox that I take a lot of pride in that part of my life. Most Veterans do. Prominently displayed at the center of my shadowbox is a Meritorious Service Medal, my highest honor. Seven of my medals are from the Air Force. Two of them are from the state of Georgia, of which one is for the time I spent in the Venue Officer Unit during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Not long ago, veterans didn’t get the respect they get today. During the Vietnam War, our troops got little or no respect when returning home from that horrible and unpopular war. Some were even called “baby killers.” Thank goodness it’s no longer that way. The patriotism we see all around us is not only encouraging, but it’s very unifying. And there’s certainly a need for that with all the divisiveness going on in our country at this time.
There was a time I only wore my military cap occasionally. Now, I wear it nearly every time I go out. It’s a great communication tool. Old veterans like myself enjoy speaking and shaking hands, thanking each other for their service. When a veteran encounters another veteran who served in the same branch of service, it leads to even deeper conversation. “Where were you stationed?” “How long were you in?” “When were you in?” and on and on.
Here’s something for consideration. If you encounter a veteran in a restaurant, tell the waitress you’d like to pay for that person’s meal. You’ll be glad you did. And, the veteran will be reminded that there are folks who care.
One great result of this current patriotic movement is the fact that many, many non-military folks take the time to approach a veteran and thank them for their service. That’s a win-win and makes both feel better. I would highly encourage anyone who sees a veteran wearing his or her military cap to pause, make eye contact, and share a kind word. The most appropriate thing you can say is, “Thank you for your service.” Most often, that’s all that needs to be said.
As we enumerate our blessings this November, the month which features Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, let’s remember, “Freedom is NOT free.”
Nick retired in 2003 from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He spent his career with the federal government as a Visual Information Specialist. He retired as a Master Sergeant from the U.S. Air Force in 2002, after serving nearly 21 years. During that time, Nick’s jobs included ICBM missile propellants, graphic design, photographer, and Wing Historian. Nick’s educational background includes a BA in Art, a BSE in Art Education, and an MEd in Instructional Resources. All degrees were earned at the University of Arkansas. Nick has traveled extensively. He lives in South Tulsa and enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with friends.
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