You Will Know Exactly What To Do

Don is a down-to-earth guy who is perhaps a bit more wide than he is tall. He has a humble spirit and is always willing to lend a hand to anybody who needs a lift…literally. Don, with his grandson in tow, often picks us up in the early hours of the morning in his huge pick-up truck that has every gadget ever invented installed on the dash and hauls us off to Boston Logan as we take off on our latest trek to some part of the world. Don is also a proud veteran. He served in the Army and experienced the worst of war in Vietnam. He is the reason for this story.

My first year on Cape Cod, I decided to organize a community-wide event on Veteran’s Day. If we were going to have a national holiday to honor veterans, then it should be more than a day off work or a chance for a weekend get away. There were a couple of local parades and other celebrations, but it often seemed as if the people on the Cape who really cared about honoring our veterans were the veterans themselves. This was not right, especially since in 2008 our country was fully engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, with casualty lists appearing daily in the newspapers.

I challenged my flock to give up an hour of their holiday to gather and honor our vets. One friend volunteered to round up a color guard and Tim, another friend, wrote a beautiful song for the event entitled, “Send Me a Soldier Tonight.” The program included stories (that I found on-line) of veterans who fought in wars all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I thought it was better to hear veterans’ stories in their own words, rather than for me to share my thoughts on war and peace, especially since I flunked out of college ROTC! We also planned to sing the Navy Hymn, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” as well as “America the Beautiful” and our National Hymn, “God of Our Fathers.” I had no idea how many would choose to attend so I was deeply appreciative when about 30 folks showed up for our first-ever Veteran’s Day event. Even better, attendance has grown to nearly 100 over the years.

The first one went quite well. The color guard presented the colors, the songs were sung and the stories heard. At the conclusion, the colors were retired. I gave a blessing and we concluded by singing “America the Beautiful.” As I walked down the center aisle toward the back of the church, I noticed Don. Wearing a colorful Vietnam War Veteran’s leather vest that also displayed the name of his army unit and the dates of his service, he stood at rigid attention in the middle of the aisle. His hand was raised in salute as tears streaked his face. I stopped and gave him a hug. He whispered in a voice choked with emotion, “This is the first time anyone ever thanked me for serving my country.”

From that moment on, I knew that we had to organize a Veteran’s Day event as well as highlight our Memorial Day service every year. After all, Memorial Day is not really a celebration of the first day of the summer season on Cape Cod. Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are times to express our gratitude to those men and women, like Don, who gave or are giving their lives or a part of their lives so that we may walk this God’s earth free and equal.

Now it may seem odd to you after reading this that I am as close to being a pacifist as you can get. I do understand that occasionally pure evil does arise in the world that might make a war just. Perhaps the horrific war being waged by ISIS in the Middle East is one of them. It makes me nauseous when I think about it. Even as awful as it is, however, I still TRY to believe that there must be a better way, a more peaceful way, to solve our differences other than resorting to violence. I also believe that, if there is a good God in the heaven, that God looks down upon any act of violence and weeps. If God is about love, then God must also be about peace.

When it comes to our veterans, however, it does not matter if I am an “almost-pacifist.” I can and should still take the time to thank Don and any other veterans who I encounter on my earthly journey. After all, I have only theorized about war and peace, while they actually put their lives on the line on our behalf.

On Tuesday, November 11th, perhaps you will encounter a proud veteran who has never been thanked. I think you now know exactly what to do: A simple expression of gratitude will make a world of difference to a veteran who has never been thanked.

Don, thanks again.

John E. Holt, Cotuit, MA

8 thoughts on “You Will Know Exactly What To Do

  1. Your clarity on this issue means so much. I have spent most of my life confused trying to make sense of the powers of peace and war. I will never give up hope that there is a better way and I will never underestimate the bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces…..may they be led in the cause of a unified and peaceful planet.


  2. Thank you paster john
    I was saluting all the service men & women who gave all and served for our country .My gob was to bring the pilot and plane back to the ship fighter recovery got my purplehart doing my best job bringing them home alive of dead . That day when taps was playing I thought of the people like me who where spit on and coffee thrown on .I was in two cast having my ankle,s broken on the US Kitty hawk. After 4 1/2 yrs my courier was over . I was going home to heal and was in San Diego calf , rolling to TBA when I was called a baby killer and spit on .I cryed I fought for my country went in at 15 my mom helped me get in.
    We where being she led red alert we all ran to our stations .I got pushed and went down the ladder my rt ankle git cough and broke in 3 places left broke landing one floor down .I woke up on sick bay they had screws and plates holding me together .they sead I would never walk again.I got mad I told them I gust signed up for 5 more years.after 2 years in a wheelchair and braces on my legs I was discharged going home .That’s when the hippy s found me at the air port .I was so hurt couldn’t fight back .When I got to Boston same thing to me and two marine thew two helped me get out of the croud.
    After 9 operations u am walking thanks to the VA hospital in road island. So I stand tall in your little church saluting all those that didn’t come home and to tell all We all love you for keeping us free .

    From a very proud third class Peady officer and your friend always Don Douglas


  3. In 1969 I joined the Navy went to great lack for boot camp . 6 weeks got my first ship USS TICONDEROGA Wood deck .I flew to Hawaii then to the Tico what a scary ride.seeing this little ship and I am going to land this c 11 I crossed my hart prayed to god please let us land safely lol. 16 seconds latter we where stopped on border my hart pounding . I was a E 3 strategy out of boot my job was aircraft mover blue shirt . After 30 days I took my test was know a E 4 third class Peady officer yellow shirt directing air craft .the next day I was late for muster and was given (the shirtty jobs ) . The chef told me and 3 others go to army get a 45 and a car bean you have fighter recovery . So off we went team fr40 team of 6 to get planes and pilot’s alive of dead bring them back. I was a scared 16 tr old a kid . First recovery was a pice if cake in out 45 minutes brought at Groves body back and the hole plane.3 and 4th trip scarry lots of ground fire two men got hit I was one of them I wanted my men safe it felt like a paintball hit tree then me . My friend Richard got hit 3 times chest and leg .I nailed the trees got the sniper put Richard im the chopper I put straps on plane pile was still in cockpit Thomson up held on and landed on border Tico. Put my men on stretchers and got pilot out .ground crews took parts off plane tossed the reckon over bord. Medic sed your b leading no its his then opened my vest .yup I got hit ak 47 round hit me. Spent 2 weeks in sick bay in Hawaii then back to Tico. After 1 tr in Nam we where going home to San Diego home port they told us the Ticonderoga was being decompression and sold to Awe where going to a new Carrier USS MIDWAY my new home for 3 yrs I have been to VietNam, Phillipines, Korea ,Hawaii 3 times .I have a purple hart Nam meddles Korean meddle good conduct meddle bronze star . Brook my right ankle 4 places left 3 my ankle was facing back words .wend down steeps got pushed and cough it good it ended my time in the Navy I gust signed up for 5 more years two weeks before it happen. Well after two yrs in Balboa hospital and 6 operations I was sent home I hated the wheelchair I told them I wood do army duty no send me home. Then at air port I was treated like scum spit on soda coffee thrown on me and other miltary men & women . There and in Boston At Logan air port TWA was nice to us helped me on and off the Plain. I nerve cryed so much me a vet and the people how we fought for treating us like baby killer’s.two marine’s helped me out of the crowd to the bus to bring me home my mom didn’t no I was on my way home.

    Well I had 9 operations and went threw shoes with metal rids holding me up then nune at all I do fall some times but I always say we bull’s wobble we do fall down and get right back up .



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