Last week, I went with the Be Good™ Foundation team to participate in the Vietnam War 50th Commemoration “Welcome Home!” celebration in Washington, D.C. We gathered with thousands of military veterans and other Gold Star families to commemorate the end of the conflict. In tandem, my sister Major General Sharon Bannister celebrated the transition from her 31 years of service in the United States Air Force.
Service comes in many forms. Some serve as members of the armed forces, some serve in government to affect change, some donate time and energy to connect us in this human experience, some serve through storytelling and others serve in ways we never even witness. A simple arm around someone's shoulder is meaningful service.
I was unsure what to expect from the week of emotionally charged and personally relevant events. I came away feeling hopeful, a little overwhelmed, loved, supported, and even appreciated.
This hasn't always been the case for children, brothers, spouses who lost a parent in what was, at the time, an incredibly divisive war. Each Gold Star family carried their emotional burden alone. Or at least that's how it seemed among a great many of us. Vietnam Veterans were also not welcomed home with appreciation 50 years ago.
This weekend sought to remedy that. The event placed a singular focus on connecting soldiers who served and returned home, those who were MIA and KIA who didn't come home...and the children and families that they left behind.
While the journey was often deeply personal, we were also there on Be Good business. I was proud to find out that our work in supporting the removal and de-mining of unexploded ordnance in Laos was not only well known but also incredibly respected. Our foundation is known in the halls of Congress, which tells me that we're helping author real change in the world through the power of the bicycle. Some pretty incredible people look to us as a North Star, which makes me appreciate our team and its tireless efforts. Makes me know in my heart that we're making a difference and that we are in service to humanity as well.
There were a lot of stops on our DC journey. The mini film festival to show Blood Road, with other Gold Star daughters, the Pete Beers Memorial ride, a tour of the White House (wow!), and even a trip to "the Hill."
We made new connections and rekindled existing ones. New doors were opened and I'm optimistic about the road ahead. I was reminded that what we do MAKES A DIFFERENCE. No matter how big or small your service may seem, it matters. My biggest takeaway is that none of us are on this journey alone and whatever we do to Be Good, it matters.
I extend a heartfelt thanks to the veterans we met, some of whom served with my father. You welcomed us into your arms and hearts and into your family. For that welcome home, I will always be grateful. My promise to all of you is that I will continue to Be Good and to serve in the best way I can.
Be Good -