I was reminded on Saturday morning about the Vietnam Veteran's annual dinner that evening. I had forgotten all about it and called Judy to see if she wanted to go. I was kind of surprised as she normally does not like going out in the evening.
I later called my buddy, Zin, to see if he was going and we agreed to save seats for each other there. So, when Judy and I arrived, we had two seats waiting for us amongst some of our close friends. I was seated across from Judy with Zin and his son, Mark on one side and Loren ( a close friend and Iwo Jima survivor) on the other.
I feel very comfortable with this group of people and enjoyed greeting and talking with them prior to the meal. I noticed Dr. Carnahan as he walked in the room. They had a photographer and he was taking his picture. The doc is one of the most highly respected men that I know. I owe so much to him.
The photographer was walking around the room snapping shots and he stopped in front of me and took my picture as I smiled at him. I remember wondering why he took a pic of me but shined it on as he seemed to stop at quite a few people.
Terry (VVA president) opened up the meal with the pledge and a prayer was spoken. Then my friend, Tony spoke of the meaning of the POW table over in the corner. My mind drifted on how hard it would be to have a son who was never found. You would always wonder what happened to him.
Then, Terry spoke of something that they had decided to do as a group earlier that year. They had decided to honor a member. A sort of veteran of the year. Someone that they could show appreciation for their efforts in the group. He said that two names had come to the top of the list and that their was so much passion for both of these individuals that they decided that the first year would be shared between them.
As he spoke, my eyes drifted around the room at the special people that were there that were deserving of such an award. I looked at my buddy, Zin and all of the hard work that he does for many organizations. Chuck, the head of Central Oregon Veterans Outreach and how hard he works to give a hand up to down trodden vets. Jim Gunn was another that I thought deserving....or Taz. Doc Carnahan certainly had to be one. I would definitely be voting for him.
So as he spoke the first name, I almost feel off of my chair. It took a second to really set in. He had spoken my name. I looked up at Judy with what must have been a shocked look and then felt somewhat embarrassed with all of the clapping and the smiles directed my way. Terry was motioning me to come up to the podium and join him as he spoke the second name: Dr. Carnahan.
The honor and the surprise was incredible. But the honor of having my name next to this man who I love and respect so much on a plaque that will be hanging on the wall of the VFW hall forever in even more so.