Posted by: annemartinfletcher | May 29, 2011

Thank You

In the last weeks, I considered remaining seated when veterans were asked to stand up to be applauded, both at Sea World and at my church. I feel a strange mixture of embarrassment, pride, gratitude, and cynicism when people thank me for my service. I did stand up for two reasons: I wanted my son, who was with me both times, to know that I am proud of my military service, and I wanted more Americans to realize that middle-age (okay, maybe a tad older than middle-age) women are vets, too.

Why were my emotions so mixed? For one thing, nobody thanked military members for their service when I joined a few years after Vietnam. An article in Military Officer, reporting on the phenomena of public support for military members, concludes that such support could turn on a dime. Recent Veteran Anne Marie Little expressed my feelings well, in her interview with Tom Brokaw:

You really don’t have to thank me. I signed up; I volunteered. I’m proud I did and it’s changed my life.

In an interview aired on the CBS show 60 Minutes, Medal of Honor winner Sal Guinta, like all recipients, claimed that he did what every person he was with would have done. He humbly called himself a “mediocre soldier,” and said, “. . . imagine what the great soldiers do.”

I think that many military personnel know people who gave more than we did for our country, especially those of us who never charged through the line of enemy fire (sorry, Guinta, I believe your mates would have done the same, but I also believe that act is extraordinary). Many times, it was just a matter of who was in which assignment and location and when.

Even if it embarrasses us, thank you for saying, “Thank you,” to veterans. Please take a moment today to remember anyone you know who died while serving in the military. Just in case you don’t know anybody personally, then help me remember the following members whose deaths haunt me.

Major Robert M. Meeks, Examiner Pilot at Charleston AFB, who taught me to be mindful of minimum altitudes, “. . . or you will fly into a mountain someday.” Then he flew into a mountain during a Special Operations training mission. I realized then, that no pilot is infallible. Our squadron lost its most experienced crew that day in 1982, including three members who often flew with me: Engineer TSgt Billy J. Canter, Loadmaster TSgt Daniel Vanarsdall, and Loadmaster Sgt. Jack C. Sweatman.

A very young loadmaster I frequently flew with, Airman Frank H. Scarton, just happened to be in the wrong place on a layover at Rhein Mein AB in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1985, when a terrorist bomb killed him. He was 19.

God bless their souls and their families.


  1. I just learned that Frank Scarton’s high school, Woodhaven High School in Michigan, dedicated a football field to him in 2009. Apparently, Frank played half-back and linebacker there. The team name is the “Warriors.” I think that is a wonderful memorial, the Frank H. Scarton Memorial Field.

  2. My family met the widow (Rita) and children (Joey and Jimmy) of TSgt. Billy J. Canter in 1987 and our families became dear friends. They are all back in Virignia now, and lead happy and fulfilling lives.

    • Just happened onto this site looking for info on my fathers death (TSgt Billy Canter), and would like to thank those of you who are still remembering my father. Would like to talk some time about them if anyone would like to.

    • Even thou I lost Bill in 1982, I’m still very proud of all the men and women who serve in our military, whether in the United States or overseas.

      Just an update…I moved back to our hometown of Bristol, VA in 2007 with my youngest son Jimmy (who is engaged to Daniele). My oldest son, Joe married in 2006 to Sabrina and they live in Sevierville, TN.

      I still keep in touch with some of my dear friends, who have since retired from the Air Force. I am so proud to know all of you, you’ve been with me more than 30 years since Bill died, and the Lord willing, you’ll be with me for the next 30 years too. Take care all of you, you’re in my thoughts and prayers. Rita

  3. Dear Joe and Rita,
    Thank you so much for your comments, that are so kind to others. I have passed Joe’s requests on to the 41st Alumni Association, that I just recently joined myself. Email me at USAFA80Lady(at) if you would like their address. Joe, I’m better on paper than the phone, so I’ll email you soon.

  4. […] the past, I encouraged my beloved readers to remember soldiers who gave their all to protect America. This year, I say, […]

  5. I went to Woodhaven High school with Frank Scarton, he was a couple years older than me, as I graduated in 1986. My older sister (1983 Graduate) knew him well and I can remember him coming by the house to see her with friends.

    I stumbled on your site after connecting with an old high school friend and it triggered the thought of the football field being named after Frank. I knew it was a terrorist car bomb but thought i’d google it and find out the motive, why and how. Of course I came across your blog as well.

    He’s gone but certainly not forgotten!

  6. I knew Jack C Sweatman, we dated as 17 yr old kids in 1974. In 1975 my family moved out of state, Jack & I lost touch. Jack was a very important person in my life during that time, I will never forget him. Thank you for posting this information. He would want me to know.

    Kim Shaffer Cook

  7. Thank you, Kim. He was a good man to fly with.

  8. Thank you for remembering my Uncle Bobby. He always did have a way with words; quietly teaching in the small moments (usually with a HUGE amount of humor too). It is nice to know he touched so many lives during his time here.

  9. […] past Memorial Day posts I wrote about friends who lost their lives in military service: Thank You, A Family of Patriots, Sadness to Anger, Mike Joyal, Help a Navy Seal. Today, I want to project […]

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