I am a retired officer who retired in 1994. I would like to share with my veteran country mates something. Our niece stays at Chicago, USA and we decided to visit her, which we could not do it earlier. On 14.05.2016 , I and my wife reached Chicago on a two month so journ.
When we landed in Chicago, there were three other heavy duty aircrafts which also landed each having 350 to 400 passengers. By the time we could arrive at the point of immigration department, there were around twelve hundred people ahead of us. We were wondering as to how long we have to stand in the queue for immigration and customs clearance.
As we were standing in the line, I enquired from the uniformed airport homeland security staff if there was any separate queue for the Veterans. He looked at me and took me to the superintendent of customs and immigration. The Superintendent asked me if I was carrying any Identity card and then I showed my Retired Officers Identity Card. After a glance at the card he took us to an enclosure and asked us to wait there. Within minutes an young lady in uniform arrived and enquired from me “Sir, were you identified as a Veteran?” When I replied in affirmative she took me to the serpentine long line seen by me earlier and most reverently placed me and my wife at the top of the queue ahead of those 1200 people who were ahead of us when we joined the line. She then went ahead and met the official stamping the passports with Visa immigration stamps and whispered something in the ears of this official who looked at us. After he finished the stamping formalities of the person ahead of us, he gestured at us. As I approached the immigration stamping official he stood up from his chair and appreciated my embroidered regimental cap that I was wearing. Very politely he asked for our passport, had a quick check, completed the biometric check, on finishing the formalities, he quietly affixed immigration stamp and then instantly added respectfully, “Welcome to USA, Sir and have an enjoyable stay here. Customs is waived for you, please go and collect your luggage from the belt and proceed ahead to the exit door.” And that was the respect they show to a veteran of another country.
30th May of every year is observed as Memorial Day throughout USA. It is a day dedicated in the memory of brave hearts who have fallen while protecting the unity and integrity of the country and in the service of the nation. The Veterans are given the due respect and remembrance for protecting them against all external and internal adversaries working against the national interest. The day is observed as a National Holiday. Oblivious of the importance and significance of the day, we were in the market going through the grandiose of the products in various stores. In one of the stores we bought some items and when I came to the counter for paying the bills, the attendant looked at my cap, hesitated for a splitting second and enquired if I am a Veteran? On receiving a reply in affirmative, he checked my credit card where my name starts with my rank and then he promptly announced – “Sir, 15% discount for the respected Veterans on Memorial Day! We are indeed grateful to the Veterans.”
We had to travel a lot across the country and for domestic air travellers very stringent security measures are adopted in all airports. I am very happy to say that many a times the security personnel at the airport gave me and my wife a broad coloured paper on which priority and expedited security check was written and we were told not to remove shoes and jackets and head gear we were wearing and eased through the body check booth.
At San Diego Sea World water-park where killer whale shows are held, the Director of the park came on the stage and announced if there are any Veterans in the audience and he made a specific mention that not only US Veterans but Veterans from all other countries are included in the count. There were 15 veterans in the audience of around 650 people and when all 15 of us stood up, the entire amphitheatre erupted into a clamour for clapping which continued for good five minutes. Then the Director announced, “We are so very happy that you all are with us today. We are safe because of you and your mates. This show is dedicated to you! There was tumultuous clapping thereafter.
The point I am making is the quantum of honour and respect these people bestow on people of Defence background to show their gratitude, love and affection for the sung and unsung heroes who had withstood like a rock against all efforts for disrupting the integrity of the country and humbled every possible attempt for disintegration of their nation. A true homage indeed!! Wish we had some steps like this nature in our beloved country to recognise and appreciate the sacrifices made by us!!!