While watching the Academy of Country Music "Salute to the Troops" show recently, I remembered a long-forgotten "thank you" that I got while in uniform in 1966.
I was at the Los Angeles International Airport waiting for a military stand-by flight to Tampa, Fla., to take leave with my parents after the completion of my first tour in Vietnam. I went into a bar and sat on a stool with a beer. A man came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and asked if I'd been in Vietnam (I was very tanned). He had been with a group of other men who were sitting at a table and he had come to get a round of beers for them. He sat next to me and apparently forgot about the guys waiting for him to quench their thirst.
He bought me a beer and I suddenly recognized him. He was Herb Alpert and the men waiting for him were the Tijuana Brass. They were headed to Tijuana for the bullfights. He told me how he and virtually all Americans appreciated what I was going through and thanked me for my service to our country. He sat with me for about 45 minutes until I had to leave.
I had relatives and friends thank me but this was the only outsider to do so and he was a celebrity.
In 2002 while honored as grand marshal in a parade in Boise, Idaho, for my duty in Vietnam, I had thousands of people yell "thank you" along the parade route. I even got to ride in a Corvette. That was the ultimate thank you.