veterans day

Veterans Day and the Peanut Butter Cup!

Go ahead…talk to strangers.

Whenever Tina and I go out, whether it’s to the High Street Farmhouse (our favorite local restaurant) or somewhere on the opposite coast, one of two questions consistently comes up:

1) “Can we go ANYWHERE without you knowing someone?”

2) “How do you manage to make a new friend everywhere we go?”

Bottom line: I get around, in a good way…and I love meeting interesting people.

Whether it’s smiling at people as I walk past, committing even the simplest acts of kindness (such as holding a door open) or cracking jokes to relieve the tension of a nervous flier, it just comes easy to me.

I get that from my Dad, who can (and will) strike up a conversation with total strangers, often with laughter ensuing.

Last Friday was no exception.

While waiting to board my plane for the first of two flights which would ultimately deliver me to Orlando, I saw ‘her’.

Being Veterans Day, she stuck out as someone to whom I wished to say “Thank you for your service”.

Her hat indicated she’d served in Iraq, and her leather vest was covered in patches and pins of various deployments and her continued loyalty to veterans groups.

During the first flight to DC, I enjoyed an article in the December issue of Success Magazine. It’s author, Jeff Vrabel, had gone into ‘undercover mode’ as an Uber driver in and around Indianapolis. Not one for a lot of small talk himself, he wanted to test-drive the experience to see what he could learn.

In the end, he walked away with several sizable chunks of life lessons, advice and experiences that he never would have gotten hiding in the shadows.

Interesting.

About 10 minutes into a 2-hour layover, I noticed my veteran sitting just a few seats away, laughing with seat-mates after successfully snagging the final remaining outlet to charge her phone.

Time to break the ice, I thought.

I notice your vest says Alton Bay, that’s such a gorgeous part of the state!”

With a great big smile, she replied “Sure is, and we had a great season of fund-raising rides through there”.

Turns out, she’s the Communications Director for the American Legion in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

She knows everybody and, being a veteran, she’s got brothers and sisters around the world.

I live in Goffstown, and we do a lot with Liberty House in Manchester.”

She laughed and told me “A couple years ago, one of my military buds called me and said he had a few dozen pairs of boots and asked if I knew where to bring them…and I went straight to Liberty House”.

Right on!

It’s funny, when the resident veterans came out to help me unload and saw them all, they called me The Rolling PX!”

For more than an hour, we shared stories of the people we’ve met and how honored we are to be helping veterans (through our BeachBum Philanthropy family), especially those who’ve struggled to reinsert themselves into society.

In case you’re wondering, here are 5 simple ways that YOU can help homeless veterans in your community!

I’ve never served in the military, but I have a ton of respect for those who’ve put their lives on the line to protect the freedom that we enjoy so deeply.

It’s an honor that I do not take lightly.

And now, I’ve got a new friend who shares that same passion.

If you ever hear of some veterans in need, you reach out to me” she said, just before boarding our next flight.

“I sure will.”  KristinaVetSmall

Knowing our conversation had already sparked this article in my mind, I asked if I could take her picture and was honored when she agreed.  

Her name is Kristina, and she is my favorite stranger from the airport.

Actually, her final act of kindness was aimed at me.

During our conversation, I’d joked that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my favorite candy.

As she reached into her purse, she asked “Have you ever tried their Butterfingers flavor combo?”

Nope, never even heard of it!”

Here, give this a try” she replied as she slid the treat into my hand.

She was right. It ROCKED!

KristinaPBCupSmallAs I boarded the plane (several minuted after she did), I saw she’d been seated near the front and gave my review on the way by: “Two thumbs up!”

Who could YOU meet today?

It doesn’t even have to be a stranger.

I understand that, for many people, that can be uncomfortable.

Somewhere in your extended collection of acquaintances, organizations or associations is an interesting person with whom you could enjoy an amazing conversation.

Who knows? The experience might change your life for the better, give you a new understanding…or even score you a sweet treat.

Pep, Ernie and the Almost-Gone Generation of Awesome!

As America was drawn into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, my grandfather (aka Pep) and his best friend Ernie walked to the Manchester NH Induction Center to enlist together.

Being slightly underage, my grandfather had to return home to get special written permission from his mother (Ernie may have lied about his age). When Pep returned to the office, he discovered that Ernie had already been shipped out.

They did not see each other again until the war was over.

What followed was a lifetime of friendship, laughter and pranks.

This past weekend, my mom and my aunt Elaine visited with Ernie’s family for his funeral and celebration of life.

We lost Pep in 2009, when he was a resident of the Veteran’s Home in Tilton NH.  

When Ernie’s family realized that mom and Elaine were “Al Dionne’s daughters”, they were swarmed with love, laughter and respect.

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer World War II veterans still with us.

Hundreds of them are dying, every day.

It always warms my heart to see parades and other events held which honor our veterans.

During a recent road race to benefit a fallen local soldier, runners paused to shake the hand of a WWII veteran who was watching from the sidewalk in front of his home. Here is the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHedXHvXRCc

One of favorite programs is the Honor Flight Network which brings them to see their memorial in Washington DC. http://www.honorflight.org/

In a time when politics often blur the lines of ‘WHY’ when it comes to war, I believe there is something critical we should remember: there are still many brave souls who are walking into recruitment centers every day to defend our nation against enemies foreign and domestic.

I personally do not agree with everything our government is doing around the world, but I will always be thankful for those who are brave enough to put themselves in harm’s way to protect America and her allies. Not all of our veterans have been honored for their duty, and that is sad.

As we observe Veterans Day, I ask you to please remember our brave men and women this week, and every week. Somewhere in your community there are veterans who are suffering from wounds seen and unseen, struggling to make ends meet, trying to survive.

You can help.

One phone call to a shelter or veterans home is a great place to start.

A heavy coat for winter?  A warm pair of boots?  A donation of food?

I can help. You can too.

Someone who risked it all is still here…and needs help.

In honor of Pep and Ernie, who both stepped up bravely a lifetime ago, I will reach out this week to give back.

Who knows, we might just find a special soul who becomes part of our circle of friends and family.

Let’s keep that feeling of honor and awesomeness going, in honor of their generation.

To all U.S. military veterans: thank you from the bottom of this grateful heart for all you’ve bravely done so that I can enjoy so many freedoms.

You are appreciated.