Vietnam vet thanks Talawanda eighth graders he met in DC


I’m a retired US Army NCO and Vietnam veteran who’s fortunate to live just outside the perimeter wall of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). I know the cemetery very well and love sharing my knowledge, and occasionally some “inside” trivia, with visitors from all over the world.  Visitor numbers were high during the week leading up to Memorial Day, and I found myself just in front of the Kennedy gravesite engaged in a nice chat with Mr. John Brinck. After a few minutes, he gestured to someone behind me to join us. Well, that someone turned out to be the eighth grade class at Talawanda Middle School. 

In ANC, I usually wear a hat identifying my background, and it’s not uncommon for me to hear, “Thank You for Your Service.” It’s always nice to hear, but frequently a bit rote and not entirely heartfelt. And then there’s the students from Talawanda. They were informed, interested and at the end of our chat, every one of them shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye, and offered their totally believable “Thank You . . .” Many of them even handed me a personal handwritten note they had brought along in case they encountered someone they wanted to salute. I have to say these kids made the day of this old veteran (and at 75 years of age they are still, respectfully, “kids” to me) and I will always treasure the memory and those notes, frequently with a tear in my eye. I’ve shared the story with lots of other vets and now I must thank those who are responsible. Oxford, you’re raising a cool crop of young citizens; Talawanda School, you’re doing your job well in many ways (I read your website); Mr. Brinck, you obviously taught these kids and apparently many before them to appreciate the history of our nation and the sacrifices of those who lie in ANC, all of whom I consider “my family.” 

And most of all, I salute the students! You’re amazing and I wish you well as you proceed through your school years. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to meet you. You’ve given me hope that this nation has a rising generation that will serve us well.

A most sincere “Thank You for YOUR Service” to every one of you. 

Gary L. Young
Arlington, Virginia