It seems that the older I get, the more meaningful each Memorial Day becomes.
When I was 23, it was a day off, and the marker for wearing summer clothes.
When I was 33, it made me a little nostalgic for my father, who passed away when I was 25.
Now that I'm 43, Memorial Day is a day of reflection and gratitude.
This might have to do with my own growing awareness of my mortality, but it is deeper than that. Life experience teaches you things, and among the lessons I have learned is that even veterans who make it home uninjured physically still have things to deal with. It could be lost time, trauma, or the death of a close friend. They can't pretend what they went through never happened.
My own father, who served in two wars, couldn't wake up the way you and I do. He woke up violently, as if he were having a nightmare or expecting a bayonet in his face. I hated waking him up from a nap or on early mornings. I never understood as a youth what it meant. After he passed, we found out, quite by accident, that he won a Bronze Star at Inchon. He never spoke of it to us, and explained the events once to his brother. That was it.
I've thought quite a bit about the 60 Minutes story Sunday of Sal Giunta, a 26 year old Medal of Honor recipient, who is still adjusting to life after combat. He is is the first live MOH recipient since Vietnam, is uncomfortable with his fame, doesn't consider himself a hero, and would trade it all to have his two friends back who perished the night he won the medal.
Honestly, I wish I could give the guy a hug. I wish I could give my dad a hug. I wish I could express my gratitude to the men and women in uniform who sacrificed so much so that I could live in this free society. We read so many stories of our returning vets who have lost houses, had issues with the VA or not been treated as they should. It is heartbreaking. We should be thanking them, not subjecting them to more hardship.
There is one thing I am going to do in my little corner of the world to make a difference to a veteran in the next 12 months. I will list and sell one veteran's house in the next year pro bono. They have to have a special need of some sort (it can be financial) because it is a waste to do it for a vet who is flush with cash or in a short sale, but so long as there is a DD-214 and the possibility of an equity advantage I'll get it done for this veteran gratis as my way of giving back. I can do this for one veteran (or their survivors), and it can be in any of the following counties: Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Fairfield (CT), Bronx, Queens, or Orange. There is minimal small print to the offer, because I can't guarantee that a buyer brokerage will be cool with forgoing their end, but there will be no listing commission.
If you know of a veteran who needs to sell and a pro bono arrangement would make a difference between hardship or not, please let me know via phone or email.
If you are a fellow broker-owner, you feel like following suit and such an arrangement would not be an undue burden to the sustainability to your business, I encourage you to join me.