I never really gave much thought to baseball caps. While in the Air Force, it was mandatory to have one on when we were outside. No professional sports team, race car driver, product or service has prompted me to wear a cap.
Now I wear a ball cap. Some, not me, say it is to shade the ever-increasing expanse of baldness on the back of my 63-year-old head.
The cap I wear is jet black, with the words VIETNAM ERA VETERAN and an embroidered red and yellow National Defense Service medal on it.
I don’t know why I decided to seek out my cap but I knew it has to be special, so I had the locations where I served in Thailand (from May 1966 to May 1967) emblazoned in yellow on the back of it.
The public’s reactions have been amazing. I have heard things like: “Thanks for your service.” “Where did you serve, my brother?” “Welcome home.” If you are about my age, you know that wearing this cap and proclaiming my service in Southeast Asia is more acceptable now than it would have been in the 1970s.
My cap and I did something special recently. A local young man was killed in Afghanistan while serving in the Army. Local people decided to hold an unofficial show of support. I felt my cap and I must take part, and we did.
The G.I. was to be buried north of Loveland, Colorado. A meeting the morning of the funeral took me to Fort Collins, which is even farther north. As I drove back to Loveland, I saw local citizens of all ages, many with flags, lining the curb and sidewalks along the route. This unorganized and somewhat spontaneous yet heartfelt show of thanks and support stretched for miles from the cemetery to the church.
The stream of police officers, Patriot Guard Riders on motorcycles and the hearse and funeral party passed my cap and me as I stood at attention. Most citizens silently held their hand over their heart or let their flags dip in honor of the young soldier. I gave a somewhat rusty salute, my fingers touching the brim of my cap. Yes, a tear may have been in my eye too, for a military brother I did not even know.
I confess, I am not an ardent follower of all things political. No matter which side of the political aisle you favor, no matter what “color” your state is and no matter if you are left, right, conservative, liberal or outright fanatic, we should all agree on one thing. Any time a man or woman enlists and puts on the uniform of our country, we should acknowledge and support them.
Next time you happen to encounter one of our fine military personal, I ask you to at least shake his or her hand and give them a “thank you” in any manner you deem to be fitting.
I tip my cap to all of them.