Not knowing how else to respond I stammered, "Thank you". I didn't want to embarrass the man. But I feel bad about accepting the props.
You see, I was wearing a hat which said 'USS Cowpens' in tribute to the ship in the United States Navy named in honor of our Revolutionary War victory at Cowpens, South Carolina. I bought the hat at a yard sale because (A) I'm a history buff, (B) I have been to the Cowpens battlefield, and (C) my mother, though born in North Carolina, was raised not that far from Cowpens. And it is a neat cap, with a fabulous crest connecting 1781 with today. But I am not a Navy veteran.
Similarly, I also have a cap which I bought at Fort Leonard Wood which proclaims 'Military Police, US Army'. My son was an MP (he's now a veteran, not that that makes me feel old) and I wear that cap proudly in tribute to him and all Army vets, MPs and otherwise. Not once but twice this weekend I was thanked for my service. But I'm only wearing the cap for those who really earned the respect of their nation. I wear it with pride too. Only not for me.
So I don't know what to do. I'm pleased that such symbols command such respect; I am embarrassed that folks think I'm part of such great circles. I'm not a hero. They are heroes. And it is not right that I should reap praise meant for them.
My son suggested that I say thank you, but say I wear it for those who served. It's a good suggestion. I think I shall adopt it.
Yet when I do say thank you, know it is for you, veterans. Know it is for you.