Monday, June 15, 2009

Black Horses

When my friend Tonia asked if I'd be willing to volunteer to take a few photos of her father, a Vietnam Vet, and his friends, also Veterans of the Vietnam war, I told her I'd be honored.

The gentlemen, who served together so many years before, still take time once a year to get together and keep in touch. This year, eleven members of The 11th Armored Calvary's Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia arranged for the meetup in Ludington.

Tonia's mom had mentioned that when they'd visited a town out-of-state for the reunion, the local Chamber of Commerce had presented the Veterans with lovely gift baskets filled with items unique to the area. Remembering how honored they felt to be so warmly welcomed to the town, she contacted our Chamber of Commerce to see if they would do the same. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, the Chamber was unable to provide this service to the 11th ACVVC who were visiting the area.

As Tonia revealed this to me and another friend, we all agreed that it was a shame that nothing could be done for these men who so selflessly served our country. So we decided to take things into our own hands.

In exactly a week, the three of us and Tonia's mom were able to conjour up some WONDERFUL gifts for the Veterans' baskets. Wouldn't you know, that when it came down to distributing the baskets, between doing to and preparing for photos... I forgot to photograph one of the baskets! (Ack!).

I would like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to the following businesses and residents who made this project possible:

Todd "Scoop" Hansen & the staff of the S.S. Badger, for the wonderful Badger puzzles and playing cards.

Julie & the staff at Jamesport Brewing Company, for the ever-popular Jamesport glasses.

Matt & the staff at WKLA Z95, for the awesome WKLA tee shirts.

The talented Phil Jackson, for the fantastic lighthouse sketches.

Miss Becky S., for the Traverse City Wine and wine glasses.

The Scottville Clown Band, for the Clown Band cassettes and postcards.

House of Flavors, for the (from what we've heard) ENORMOUS ice cream cones AND the extra hospitality that was shown to our Vets when they received them.

Kilwin's, for the fudge and also the kindness and care that was delivered with it.

Bates Maple Syrup, for the yummy maple goodness.

Alexus & Weston for the super cool, personalized cards that went into the baskets.

Christie, for your last-minute help putting the baskets together.

(Also in the basket was a jar of pickled asparagus and a gift certificate for prints from Monson Photography)

Again, thank you to all involved in making this project a HUGE success. For some of these guys, this may have been the first time that they were recognized or thanked for their service, which is really a shame. We all need to remember, every single day, WHO we need to thank for having the freedom we do.

Thank you to Tonia and "Nee Nee" for letting me be involved in this project. It was truly an honor and a privilige to be a part of this. Veterans have ALWAYS and will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart, and I am proud to have been a part in honoring some of them.

Thank you again to the Veterans themselves.... I don't think I can put my thoughts and feelings here and give justice to how I feel about you all. Just... Thank You. For everything.

Thank you to all the wives and families of our Veterans and Troops as well. I think this is a group that often gets overlooked; why, I don't know. I remember at the age of ten, having my own mother overseas as a medic in Operation Desert Storm. I remember all too well, the fear of her not coming home to us. It's not something I would wish on anyone. Thank you for being strong and standing by our Troops.