Physical infirmities could not compete with the hearts of those who live in Floral Lakes, a private subdivision for senior citizens, as its residents came out in numbers for the community’s annual Veterans Day tribute.
Held in a garden built by the residents several years ago as a memorial to all who served in the military, the ceremony was blessed with a comfortable autumn temperature and climate and the occasional breeze that caused Old Glory to flutter often in full majesty.
It was also marked with tears and twinges of sadness, not just for those who had recently passed away this past year, but for the loss of youthful innocence and the loss of lives cut short at such tender years, and the memories of pain and pride on the parts of those left behind.
Whether slow of gait or soft of voice, those who had served, as well as those who honored them, spoke and sang from the heart as they addressed their comrades-in-arms. One by one, as each branch of the military was called out, the names of those residents still living, who served in that particular branch, stood. For some it was slow and laborious, but stand they did, straight and erect. Their bearing showed the pride and gratitude each held for the opportunity and privilege having served their country during its times of need.
And after all was said and done and the ceremony concluded, while they wended their way to the clubhouse — many driving or riding the ubiquitous golf carts that dot the subdivision — and despite the laughter and conversation, there was that particular look in their eyes; eyes, moist, that shined with that which will always remain defiant of description, only to have been experienced.
The veterans carried with them that particular look as they always have from the day they were called, and gently nodded as they listened to Ken Leland, a Vietnam veteran with the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 787 Speakers Bureau, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps, as he spoke before the gathering.
“You can become so hardened by war you can never see the beauty of things ever again,” said Leland. He added that war can change a person into someone they never expected to be, its impact lingering, permanently.
“War is not something you can leave on the battlefield. You carry it with you until you draw your final breath.”