Thursday, November 12, 2015

Intruder in the midst

I didn't serve in any of our Armed Services. I was a victim of a conspiratorial fluke of calendar and clock. Just a few ticks of father time, who had, apparently been drinking copiously, an and lost track of a few ticks and tocks of the celebratory revolution of New Year's Clicks, and more precisely, clocks.
Thirty-Seven Thousand, four hundred fifty-five of them, not to put too fine a point on it. Well, since we're being mostly brutally honest, it was actually thirty-seven thousand, four hundred fifty-four of them occurring on the first day of January, in the year 1953 AD (Anno Domini), or as they refer to it now, CE for Christian Era.
But the real culprit in this tragic comedy of errors, I suppose, is me. I was due to make my grande entrée sometime of my choosing during the week of on 1st December, 1952. Being rather comfortable right where I was, and seeing no compelling reason to reconsider my living arrangements, I elected to remain and wait for a formal eviction notice.
Which brings us to a little known, but quaint bit of ridiculously non-negotiable Union County, New Jersey law. Which in cooptation with the first thirty-one million, five hundred thirty-five thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine seconds of Nineteen fifty-two, conspired together to change the course of my not yet life technically begun life. You see, when the big glittery ball in Times Square, New York City miraculously feel from Dick Clarke’s Christmas tree without smashing and stopped falling at that final moment when tic number (pardon me while I transition to numerals to save time) 31,535,999 to tock number 31,536,000 and once more to tick number 31,536,001, it simultaneously became tick number 1 of 1953. Precisely 37,454 ticks later, on the 37,455th tick, or 10:14 A.M., 1953 A.D., I sucked in my first belligerent breath of air.
Now that’s all well and good a far as that goes, my mother was glad to have done with me (boy was she in for a shock!) But my series of annoying misadventures was just beginning. To begin with, everything after midnight, December 31st, 1952 required that my January first birthdate placed me in a new school year. That meant that when all my friends headed off to kindergarten, I stayed home where Mom taught me one-on-one for a year little things reading, writing both block and cursive, and how to type on an old Smith-Corona typewriter that weighed more than I did; all of which meant I started Kindergarten with a 5th grade reading level and 4th grade everything else.

So what does this have to do with Veteran’s Day yesterday?  My parents were offered to advance me three different times. Each time they said no. Because of this. I still had 6 months of high school left when I turned 18 and registered for the Vietnam draft. I was given an educational deferment.   That meant I just signed an agreement to be drafted until I was 36. They Neglected to tell me that part. I also drew a very high number. I’m talking over 320 out of 365 high. It only came that close once – It would have hit two weeks after Mr. Nixon signed the papers to end the Vietnam draft. Talk about charmed! Exceedingly, abundantly blessed!
An old hymn comes to mind: 
Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you;
beneath his wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

‟God will take care of you,
through every day, o'er all the way;
he will take care of you,
God will take care of you.”
For me, Viet Nam came and went. And Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Now we are waging a war against Islamic terrorists brought to our shores by our own President, and the call to arms has never com. From Day one it would seem God has had a different plan and purpose for me. My brothers are Veterans. My brother in law, sisters in law, step son, son in law, father, uncles, step father, and even my wife are Veterans, and two of my nephews are in the Service. One is Active, one is a Vet. It would appear my job is to support them and thank them.
Last night at Olive Garden and all day yesterday on Facebook, I did just that, today is the day after, and I’m using my blog to tell you about last night. It says tonight because I started that part first. For all of you – my family, my friends, the veterans I was honored to bread with. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. God Bless you/
I was surrounded by you tonight. Olive Garden had a special deal of dinner entre for free for active duty Servicemen and women and 10% off for their accompanying family members. As the Accompanying Spouse/Family Member, I was given the great honor to dine in the presence of members of every branch of service and every war from WWII to the current conflict, including a former Navy Seal now member of Homeland Security.
 He was a shaved head black man not unlike Sam Hannah (LL Cool J) of NCIS-LA but that was about where the resemblance ended. Well, that and biceps the size of my thigh! I did ask how 'former seal Sam Hannah pull off the part’ and he shrugged his shoulders, waggled his hand and simply said "well, you know - TV". I got to welcome home almost a dozen Nam Vets, and the biggest thrill of all - shaking hands with a WWII Army supply clerk who never left stateside. World War II!
My only regret was not being able to thank each of them who were there tonight individually. Men and women who, as the MEME goes, handed the government of the United States of America a blank check with their signature on it. I sat in the presence of the lucky ones - the ones who got the cancelled check back stamped PAID IN FULL.
They all carried in their pockets the memories of the friends who came home in a box, or didn't come home at all. Yeah. They were there tonight, too. You could sense them singing the regimental marching songs, or whatever was popular - from 1775 to 2015: 240 years of drinking songs and marching songs and don't forget me when I'm gone songs that we'll all sing on ‘til Johnny comes marching home.
And for one night, under a diamond studded milky way when the moon lay low, looking for cover I had the great honor to sit in their midst.
You are the real heroes, each and every one of you.
Thank you and God Bless you, and God Bless America.

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