"Thank you for your service." These are the words of respect we hear Americans use to honor their fellow citizens who have served in the armed forces, especially now during Veterans Day observances. The sentiment, though commonplace, is no less sincere. We, as a nation, are grateful to the men and women who have gone "in harm's way" in defense of our freedoms.
Some choose to go above and beyond in their homage to the vets.
If you walk into The Crackpot Restaurant, a seafood eatery and crabhouse at Loch Raven Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, you will notice inside near the entrance the Heroes Table. The table seating four sits beneath a Wounded Warriors Project blanket given to owner Neil Smith, of Towson, in gratitude for his donation to the project.
That blanket and table grew into a display showing American flags and medals in display cases. That in turn led to free lunches. Some of the veterans come to the lunch in a mobility van supplied by the Veterans Administration. They get to order anything on the menu and it's on the house, including tip.
Word of the veterans' lunch has spread so that members of the community stop by to meet the vets. The next lunch is Nov. 19.
There are concrete expressions of gratitude, such as Smith's, and there are also stirring words that deserve to be revisited.
In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, Republican Sen. Charles "Mac" Matthias (1922-2010), who represented Maryland in Congress from 1969 to 1987, spoke on Veterans Day at a time when morale among citizens and soldiers was at a low ebb. Matthias was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.
The senator said, "In these days it has become fashionable among some Americans to scorn military service and to believe that if only we would give up our arms, other nations would immediately do the same.
"Alas, this is not the case.
"At the other extreme are those who equate honest dissent with a questioning of national honor. They feel that we betray our fighting men if we exercise that right of dissent which, by their service, our men have guaranteed us.
"This too, is wrong, for we betray them if we don't exercise that right.
"Indeed, we owe our fighting men every last drop of our best judgment so that we can feel sure that they are not fighting in vain. But this is not enough — we also owe them our deepest honor, for they have put their very lives on the line, and all our rhetoric could never match the eloquence of that act."