By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times
Veterans’ Day 2022 has come and gone but one special memory came back as I watched televised ceremonies at various places. It happened in 2010 when my then seven-year-old granddaughter, Kennedy Watson, invited me to come to her elementary school for a Veterans’ Day event.
She wanted her Papaw to be there with her because, like millions of other Americans, I had worn the military uniform of my country. I wasn’t sure someone so young could really understand why our nation celebrates Veterans’ Day. Little did I know when we pulled into the school parking lot that it was ole Papaw who would get educated that day.
We had just walked into the school when a young lad no taller than my old Army duffel bag came up, shook my hand, and thanked me for my service. Two other boys handed me a tag identifying me as a former Army GI. They also thanked me for my service.
Kennedy escorted me to the cafeteria where we enjoyed a tasty breakfast. Two parents, a lunchroom monitor and six other students thanked me for my service before, during and after breakfast.
Kennedy held my hand as we walked with her classmates to the gymnasium which was festooned in patriotic bunting and a big welcome sign for veterans. Several others said thanks as we walked by. By this point, the lump in my throat was noticeable.
I’ve heard “Taps” played many times, but I was unprepared for the wave of emotion that swept over me when it was performed by the little violinists in the “McBrayer Strings”. I thought of my best childhood buddy, Ernie, who was killed in action in Vietnam.
I also remembered my late Army pal, Gordo, who performed “Taps” so many times as a high school trumpet player and later as a proud soldier. And I recalled how I felt the day that song was played at his graveside.
I was wiping my eyes for about the tenth time when an old friend, a local minister and Air Force vet, leaned over and said he knew I would not have any trouble writing my personal column that week.
Thanks, Kennedy, for sharing such an incredible event with your Papaw. And thanks to our local veteran’s organization and our school system for making sure that love of country and appreciation and respect of veterans are included in the curriculum.
And thanks again to those young Americans who taught me a lesson in patriotism on a beautiful fall morning in this land of the free.
Contact Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org.