I was new to the unit and so was an older gentleman—I’ll call him Bob. He was struggling to understand how we could bring up a person’s account on the computer and determine why the problem arose and what we needed to do to fix it. A lot of information was coded. We had to learn to read the codes. Of course, it being the government, we had to handle volume quickly. And Bob was frustratingly slow and had so many questions. Our instructors would lose patience with him when he kept asking the same questions, when he seemed unable to comprehend how to access the information he needed or how to apply the information to resolve the taxpayer’s issue.
Then Veteran’s Day arrived. The first time I experienced it as a government employee I was overwhelmed. Of course, it was a holiday for us. But the day before, every former serviceman/woman arrived at work wearing his or her uniform. A ceremony was held in the courtyard and all the ex-military gathered in the center to salute the raising of the flag while those of us who had never served—never put ourselves in harm’s way—stood at the outer edge of the circle and acknowledged their service.
And there was Bob. In his dress blues, with ribbons and medals pinned to his chest. Bob, who up until that day, people in our unit had not truly appreciated. Bob, whose efforts on our behalf, gave us the freedom to lose patience, to be jerks, to forget that we can’t always know everything about the guy who sits at the next desk over.
We don’t always know his struggles or his sacrifices, his courage or his fears. When our servicemen and women are out of uniform, we can’t easily identify them to say thank you. Which is the reason that I take a moment to say thank you and shake the hand of any serviceman/woman with whom I cross paths. To a one, they always say, “My pleasure, ma’am.”
Today is a day for remembering our veterans. But in truth, we should remember them every day. They are the best of us.
Thank you to those who served and those who continue to serve. You are appreciated more than words could ever express.