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A Silver Star Thank You

A funny thing happened on the way home after an authors’ panel.

I’d just finished a conversation with best-selling novelist, Diane Chamberlain, enjoying a rush of excitement that comes after chatting with someone you admire. Walking through a parking lot at Cameron Village to meet my daughter, I spied a license plate with Silver Star for Gallantry posted on it. As I kept walking by the car, I thought, “Wow. That’s pretty special.”

The Silver Star Medal is awarded to servicemen for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.

I dug into my pocketbook for a pen and pad and wrote, “Thank you for your service.” I’ve never done that before. I feel a little strange saying five easy words to people who’ve sacrificed home and family, experienced life and death situations, and endured hardships that test emotional, physical, and spiritual strength. Yes, a thank you is nice but in no way compares with their effort.

On Sunday, however, I decided to turn around and leave the note. As I raised the windshield wiper to secure the paper, I heard a woman’s voice ask, “Is that your car?”

I glanced up to see a distinguished looking couple advancing toward me. The gentleman locked eyes with me and nodded.

Busted.

Embarrassed, I slid the note from under the wiper, and said, “Well, I’ll just hand it to you.” As he read the note and smiled, I stepped back, wanting to get away, wanting disappear. I’d meant the note to be an anonymous act of gratitude. He looked up and thanked me for it, but I didn’t want to be thanked for writing a quick, little note.

More embarrassment.

I explained I’d seen the notation on his license plate and confessed, “I didn’t think I’d be caught red handed.” I stepped forward, shook his hand, and said, “thank you,” again.

Then I decided to share, to try and explain that his service really did mean something to me, that I wasn’t just passing along a trite expression like “Have a nice day.” I told him, “I wasn’t expecting to be a military mom, but I have a son in ROTC at UNC-Chapel Hill and a son at West Point.” He said, “And does that make you apprehensive?”

I hesitated just for a second before admitting, “No, because I pray every day for them.” His companion started clapping. “Yes! That’s right. We have to pray for our people in uniform.” We chuckled. I thanked him again and finally completed my get away.

The veteran seemed genuinely happy with the note. I left him staring at it, smiling.

I’ve written before that words are powerful, that they make a difference. And now I know even trite ones, even easy ones can be special, too. A “thank you” says, “I noticed you. You made a difference in my life. Your effort counts.”

Pass along a “thank you” when you have a chance.

Who needs one today?

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