Veterans of military service in the Treasure Valley are finding a welcome message in a place that more commonly is home to parking tickets and unwanted business solicitations.
ITD's Diane Wilton and her husband Michael have become a two-person team devoted to thanking veterans for their service to America by placing cards under the windshield wipers of vehicles that bear veterans' license plates.
Michael, a Vietnam helicopter pilot, conceived the idea of a formal welcome after he found a hand-written message on a napkin under his windshield. He like the idea so much, he went to a Boise printer and asked for about 150 post-card-sized cards with the subtle image of a flag in the background and the simple message Thank you for serving our country.
He and Diane carry supplies of the cards in their cars and stop anytime they see an unattended vehicle with the veterans' plate. Occasionally, they'll cruise a shopping center parking lot looking for qualifying vehicles; other times, they see the cars during their normal activities.
They're really touched, Diane said of the few veterans who have caught her and Michael in the process. We haven't seen anyone throw one away. People are very thankful that someone would take the time to do this.
It's wonderful to see the smile that the vets have after receiving a card. About two weeks ago, we visited the Warhawk Museum in Nampa. When we came out, we saw a veteran's plate. It read 'Pearl Harbor Survivor.' My husband went to get a card while I spoke to the gentleman. When my husband gave him the card, the gentleman was visibly moved. In fact, all three of us were affected. He smiled and said 'Thank You.'
Our reply was, 'No, sir. Thank you.' It was an incredible experience and one that we do every time we see a veterans plate.
It gives me some pleasure in saying thanks, Michael explains of his initial $60 investment.
The record 1,500 hours he logged at the stick of a helicopter in Vietnam seemed to be a thankless contribution. His experience upon returning from two tours of duty (1966-67 and 1970) was much different than veterans find today. Michael was accosted by protestors when he left an Army base immediately upon returning from one tour of duty.
The reception made a lasting impression that he is determined counter.
Since those Vietnam missions, Michael spent 19 years as a reserve officer in the Army and 11 in active service. He continues to fly helicopters, though, working for Hillcrest Aviation of Lewiston in summer forest fire suppression efforts.