‘Thank you for your service’

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

“What do you say?” Growing up, how many times did one of my parents ask that question?

A conservative answer would probably be in the hundreds. Whenever someone did something nice for me or gave me something, Mom would ask, “What do you say?”

My answer was always the same: “Thank you.”

Mom was always proud whenever I would say “Thank you” without being prompted. She would smile and say, “Randy, that was very nice of you.”

I am proud to live in a community where we routinely say “Thank you” to our veterans.

A few months ago, our granddaughter, Amanda, surprised us all when she decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy. We went with her for her initial swearing-in ceremony in Columbus. She completed all her paperwork, stood at attention with several other young adults, raised her right hand, and repeated the following oath:

“I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So, help me God.”

That is the same oath repeated by every member of our armed forces — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

As Amanda stood and repeated those solemn words, I could feel a lump of pride forming in my chest. My eyes started to water.

We stood along the side of the room and watched as Amanda was transformed from an 18-year old, recent high school graduate to a committed young lady who was going to serve her country and protect and defend our way of life. Our pride was indescribable.

Just before we walked out of the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), she received a package containing her paperwork and a Navy hat and t-shirt. She immediately put on her new hat.

On our way back to her house, we stopped at a restaurant. The waitress noticed Amanda’s dark blue baseball cap with the word “NAVY” emblazoned on it and asked if she was in the Navy.

Amanda thought for a minute and hesitantly said, “Well, yes, I guess I am.”

The young waitress said, “Well, thank you for your service.” Mandy looked a little uncomfortable, then thanked the waitress for her kind words.

I told her to get used it — she deserved everyone’s gratitude.

This past week, Amanda completed her 8-week Naval basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago. On her way to her advanced training program in Pensacola, Florida, as she walked through the airport in Chicago carrying her sea-bag and wearing her brand-new, dark blue Navy uniform, she was stopped by other people who wanted to tell her, “Thank you for your service.”

When it comes to our veterans, we can never say “Thank you” enough.

I am proud of this community for our dedication to our veterans. It was just 11 years ago that we formally dedicated the Clinton County Veterans Memorial to all of our veterans.

Letters that were written during the Civil War up to our most recent wars are etched into that black granite. Specially commissioned pictures are displayed on the memorial wall that represent the various situations our veterans endured while supporting and defending this country. It is a special place.

During the dedication program, on Veterans Day 2008, one young boy looked up to his grandfather, a Marine veteran, and asked, “Grandpa, is this a whispering place?”

His grandpa thought for a minute, leaned down and quietly said, “Yes. Yes, it is.” Our veterans memorial is a place of quiet reflection where we can express our deepest appreciation for our veterans. They deserve it.

Since that chilly November morning, this community has also started a military banner program. In the spring of each year, well over a hundred banners are proudly raised to honor many of our veterans.

We also have flown many veterans to Washington, D.C. as part of the Honor Flight program. There they can experience the appreciation of a grateful nation as they visit our beautiful capital and the many veterans memorials that are a highlight of any visit to our nation’s capital.

By this time next year, Amanda will have her name on a brick as part of the Clinton County Veterans Memorial. Her brick will be placed beside that of her father’s and her three uncles. Along one of the busy streets of this city, there will also be a banner displaying the bright young face of the sailor who is my granddaughter.

On behalf of this community and the entire nation, whether you are an 18-year old who is just starting your military service or if you are an aged WWII veteran: God bless you.

Thank you for your service

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.


Randy Riley

Contributing columnist