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Two Very Different Veteran Day Celebrations

Last week I was privileged to be invited to the 3d Annual USAA Influencer Conference in San Antonio, TX.

Today, I was invited to Pine Ridge Elementary School in Ada, MI.

Both had Veterans Day celebrations that impacted me but in two very different ways. Both sent and had a wonderful message! USAA is built around veterans and their members are veterans and their families so there is a natural appreciation and their Veterans Day program certainly showed their affiliation. A dignified and respectful ceremony with flag officers, wounded warriors from the nearby medical center, family members, USAA team members and a crowded, standing room only audience.

Captain Smiley speaking at Veterans Day Celebration at USAA
The headline speaker was the only blind Army active duty officer, Captain Scotty Smiley. Captain Smiley was terribly injured in Iraq by a terrorist car bombing while shielding others with his Stryker vehicle. While blindness was certainly central to his story, it was not the whole story. The story was one of hope, depression, caring, family support, a Christian testimony, love, marriage and the future. The USAA veteran celebration in San Antonio was video taped and played live on the Pentagon Channel for a national audience. It thrilled the audience and left us feeling proud to be Americans.


Jump ahead to Ada, Michigan this morning. Another type of invitation, not as formal, no airline tickets required but just as important. A local school invited veterans to have lunch with their children or grandchildren to recognize area veterans. Certainly not a center of military personnel, or even retirees like San Antonio but Americans all have a way to say thank you. No big fanfare but certainly appreciation.

Proud grandson meeting grandpa at classroom to celebrate Veterans Day
I loved the smiles from my grandchildren, Josiah and Jacob, when I showed up. Their pride at sharing grandpa, the veteran, with their classmates and teachers was so evident. One teacher had pinned Veterans Day student made badges on all the children and the reason for the event had been explained. Jacob’s teacher asked me if I had written my story yet. I told her I blogged but someday I should do something more to capture the details of my service.

Enjoying lunch during Veterans Day celebration
As I was getting ready to leave, one student touched me greatly. She sought me out as I left. I heard her say something at the classroom door. I had to bend down to hear her soft voice say “thank you”. She added, for fighting in our wars and protecting us. Her teacher beamed behind her! The teacher’s message had been received and this child had learned it! Yep, she understood.






Col K is a retired Air Force pilot who served with the best of the military community from the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force. He flew combat rescue and special operations helicopters, fixed wing trainers and airlift and retired while flying the C-17 as the Vice Wing Commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord AFB. He enjoys writing about military issues and is a frequent contributor to the the DoD Blogger Roundtable at DoDLive.

A member of a proud military family that created MilitaryAvenue.com to support the troops and their families, he enjoys the continued military ties from blogging.

If you would like to read more about Captain Smiley’s amazing story please go to his website at http://www.hopeunseen.com/.

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In appreciation of his outreach and service as a blogger for MilitaryAvenue, USAA provided travel to their conference. Thank you is sometimes the best and most simple way to express your appreciation.

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