On Veteran's Day this year, I saw one of our local citizens walking up past my office to attend the Veteran's Day program. I quickly put on my coat and dashed up the sidewalk. I slowed my pace the closer I got and quietly said, "Hello Darwin". He put his arm around me and said, "Hello Jo, you probably want to walk faster than me." I replied, "No, I was walking fast to catch up to you, so I could walk with you."
We chatted the rest of the way to the building and then I left him as we came into the hallway outside of the gymnasium. I thought my time with Darwin was over for the day. The program started, speeches were given, songs were sang and played, flags were waved, tears were shed and pride was evident for those 56 minutes.
Typically, at the end of the program, I try to get to as many veteran's as possible to personally thank them for their service. After ten minutes Darwin found me and grabbed by elbow and said, "There she is. Are you ready to leave?" I said, "Sure, I'll walk you back." But, Darwin had different ideas to where "back" was. How could I refuse? I didn't know at the beginning of my day I'd have such an awesome opportunity to spend some extended time with a veteran, but I was blessed with Darwin walking by my office, I'm so thankful I jumped on the chance to spend more time with him.
My dad is a veteran of the Korean War. He had a stoke several years ago, has a hard time hearing and doesn't like to speak in front of people because the words don't always come easily. But, he still drives their motor home to Florida -- so he is doing better than he professes! My father-in-law is also a veteran and has been able to attend the Honor Flight and I have tried like crazy to talk my dad into this -- but as of now he is staunchly saying no.
Our oldest daughter wrote on her blog several years ago when her Great Uncle Ralph passed away:
The legion men. Yesterday at Ralph's funeral, the legion men were there to honor Ralph for serving our country during WWII. Aside from the legion members, there were also two active duty soldiers there to present the flag to my great aunt Macy. I love that our country does this. The astute presence these men have is full of so much dignity and pride, how can it not make you proud to be an American and tear up as taps is played from afar. I only know a few of the legion men, but all of their faces are familiar. They were in every homecoming parade, marched at every Veteran's Day assembly, presented the flags at the homecoming game, and various other community events. These men serve this community all the time, and I love that I don't know all their names, but know all their faces. I love how they look in their uniform, and how those uniforms somehow make them timeless.
I so agree with her -- these people are everywhere making an impact within our communities! The picture below is of my great nephew with his aunt's boyfriend -- an Afghanistan War vet at our Veteran's Day program.
So, now back to Darwin. Darwin and I left the MS/HS building together. Not sure if I mentioned this or not -- but Darwin is 90 years old, lives here in Van Horne and still walks to the post office every day, stops at the pharmacy (where they promptly turn polka music on for him) and then Beth checks his blood sugar levels (even if she needs to leave a meeting to do so). As he heads back home he drops off mail for others on his path. I got to experience all of this on Wednesday with Darwin -- even got to attend the Van Horne Legion & Auxiliary Soup Dinner with Darwin and many others who were at the Veteran's Day Program. Darwin told people that day that I was "his girlfriend" for the day. What an honor for me.
Darwin in the man in the blue shirt in this picture.
Photo from: http://yourweeklypaper.com/blog/2012/04/20/city-of-van-horne-is-tree-city-usa-recipient/
During our time together he spent a lot of time talking about what school was like for him and life now at 90 years old. He was pumped about attending the Iowa vs. Oklahoma State wrestling meet at Kinnick Stadium and being able to spend some time with other wrestling fans, including some of my extended family. Now that Iowa won -- I bet he is really on cloud 9 -- at 90 he was part of a record breaking crowd!
He also talked about how important teachers were to him in his lifetime. He has a slight speech impediment and he said all the teachers he ever had did a wonderful job of helping him learn -- even though it wasn't always easy for him to express himself. He wanted me to share this message "You do make a difference!" and he still remembers those "difference makers" in his life at 90.
We don't always know the impact we have on others -- but know we do have the choice to make those impacts positive for year's to come!