Every year on Veteran’s Day, my dad would skip work and allow us to skip school. We would spend the whole day together. Sometimes road-tripping. Sometimes cutting wood for the winter. Regardless of the activity, we knew he would share stories of his time in the Army.
It was one of my most cherished memories growing up and I knew it was a tradition I wanted to share with “my kids.” Every Veteran’s Day I show up early and let them know why we’re skipping. I explain the tradition my father first started and why it was important to him.
We go for breakfast, I take them to my hometown and show them the Veteran’s Memorial, and we attend the VFW’s ceremony. We follow it up with an old-fashion candy store, before heading to a Civil War Battleground.
I laughed as they jokingly mocked my small town and its lack of stoplights and I laughed as they pretended to be Winston Churchill after they found an antique store that sold old pipes.
We stopped at every great view for photo shoots. We even took a few wrong turns leading one of the ladies to exclaim “this alley is shadier than fifty shades of grey.”
Year after year, I’m amazed at how respectful and grateful these ladies are. They stop veterans and thank them for their service. They stand reverently around the memorial, this year taking paper towels out of the van to dust it off. I watch and have a small glimmer of the pride my father must have felt.
This year as we were driving to the battleground one of the ladies asked, “Ms. Lindsey is your dad buried close to where we’ll be.”
Wondering why she was asking, I responded with “not too far, why?”
She then asked if we could go buy a flag and some flowers and take it to his grave to have a memorial service for him and thank him for starting this tradition.
They asked if we could call my mom so she could attend it with us and once she agreed we went to the store and they thoughtfully picked out the right flowers and a few flags. They even picked out a few cards for Momma Deb, one a sympathy card because they didn’t want her to be sad and one a birthday card scratching out the Happy Birthday because the rest of it was perfect for her.
We gathered around as they carefully placed the flowers and flags, adjusting them until they were just right. We then stood there quietly, holding hands as they thanked him for his service and for starting our new tradition.
I’m constantly amazed by these thoughtful, resilient young ladies. I started out wanting to do something special for them, sharing a family tradition that meant so much to me growing up, and in the process, they touched my heart in a profoundly inspiring way.
I’m often asked why I do the work I do. There is no single answer, but I think one of the most significant ones is that we get to have these experiences together. They are constantly challenging and inspiring me.
Every day that I get to work with these ladies I consider a privilege.