By Máire Nakada
Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015
We started the beginning of Veteran’s Day Week with the Flag’s of Glory event on Sunday where I was scheduled to give a short speech about how thankful our nation is to our veterans. I have never felt more out of place. What I had to say had already been said before and I felt ashamed that I couldn’t find the right words to say how thankful I am for the service our veterans have given this wonderful country. I was embarrassed to not be able to say something original to the crowd that was waiting to hear something new and intelligent from someone who is supposed to be an example to young women across the nation. I prayed that I would find the right words at the following events of Veteran’s Week.
On Tuesday, I attended the Elephant Dinner with various highly esteemed military officials. Sitting amongst some of our nations finest leaders was like being dipped into a pool of inspiration. It was amazing to see the pride of being an American each veteran held in his or her eyes. They were proud to serve our country. Proud to make the sacrifice of putting others first so that we may live a free life. Proud to serve others for the sake of creating a better world. I didn’t have to give a speech at this event but instead was able to listen and appreciate what the honored veterans at this dinner had to say.
On Veteran’s Day our morning began with meeting Al Roker at the USS Alabama Battleship to do the weather in Mobile. I was also introduced to a 105-year-old veteran dressed in uniform who was sitting attentively, waiting to see who was coming to greet him next. I was told that when he was woken up that morning, he asked what he was getting ready for. When he heard it was to make an appearance at the USS Alabama for Veteran’s Day he replied, “Good. It is another day I can serve my country.” I couldn’t respond to what I had just heard. The pride and joy it brought this veteran to serve his country was absolutely amazing.
Following the Al Roker weather report, we rushed over to the meeting point of the Veteran’s Day parade where our next event was. The parade was awesome because it brought Mobilians out of their homes to thank our Veterans for what they do in a festive manner. The next and final event of the day was my Be Your Best Self speech to a few hundred fourth graders at the USS Alabama Memorial Park Museum. This was my favorite part of the day because I personally believe that we are here to inspire others to do good and be selfless. Presenting what it means to be your best self to these fourth graders meant a lot to me because it is crucial to know what it means to put your best foot forward at a young age. Being able to contribute in inspiring the nation on Veteran’s Day was a true honor. I may not have served my country in terms of military service yet, but hopefully I have served in inspiring our nation’s youth to be selfless and put the best version of themselves forward, just as the 105-year old veteran did that day.
At the end of Veteran’s Day I knew exactly what I should say the next time I have the opportunity to thank a veteran. Thank you for being an example of what it means to give the greatest sacrifice of all. Thank you for protecting our freedom. Thank you for being proud to be an American and inspiring your fellow country men to do the same. Thank you for stepping forward while others step back. Thank you for sharing your stories from your time as an active military member. Thank you for your service and may God bless you always.
Máire Nakada is a college freshman at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Máire was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015. Learn more about Máire here!