This Veteran’s Day I had the opportunity to see first-hand, and live, one of the U. S. Air Force’s core values; Service Before Self. I had the privilege to take my 86-year-old step-father, and WWII veteran, Bill, out for the day.
My mother had to make the very tough decision to place him in a permanent living facility for memory care a couple of months ago. Having been diagnosed with dementia several years ago, his memory and ability to care for himself has diminished greatly. He doesn’t always understand why he is there, which is sad. But, sometimes he does understand, which is equally as sad.
One of the employees there, Chris, has a passion for serving this great generation and does it selflessly. It is a joy to watch him interact with the residents there. He speaks to them with kindness and dignity, no matter their condition. He spends days and evenings doing a job that he loves. He understands that these residents are people who have stories that they can no longer tell. He truly displays Service Before Self.
On Monday, I called ahead to let Chris know that my brother and I would be taking Bill out for a free Veteran’s Day haircut and some lunch. He made sure that Bill was showered and dressed nicely, ready for the outing when we arrived.
When I walked up to Bill and asked him if he was ready to go, he smiled and said, “Let’s go!” So, my brother and I wheeled him outside and transferred him from his wheel chair to the car. Thankfully, it was easier than I thought it would be. I simply had him hug me while we helped him stand up, then Bill and I ‘danced’ step-by-step to the car door so he could sit down. Bill was quite the dancer back in the day! This ‘dance’ was reversed when we arrived at the salon for his haircut.
The cosmetologists at the salon were providing free haircuts to veterans all day long. They were donating their time for those who have served. Bill noticed all the people coming and going. The lady who cut Bill’s hair let him stay in his wheelchair during the process. She took extra care to ensure he was okay during the cut. She truly displayed Service Before Self.
Next we went to a lunch spot that had been a favorite of Bill’s and my mom. I cut up his hot dog so it was easier for him to eat and shared my frozen yogurt with him. Bill was happy and pointed out the birds hopping around. Seeing him happy, made me happy.
When we arrived back at his new residence, I spent some time making sure he was comfortable before I had to leave. It’s never easy to say good bye, but when Chris is there, it makes it easier to leave. We had had a good day and although he seemed tired from the outing, he was happy to have gone. I wished him a Happy Veteran’s Day. Service Before Self – my duty, my honor.