03-18-2014 01:09 PM
USAA sponsored the 4th Annual San Antonio Spurs Military Appreciation Night on Feb. 28 as the Spurs battled the Charlotte Bobcats. The Spurs wore their military-inspired uniforms, and the game was packed with a full lineup of special gestures to thank the military.
When USAA employees think about what it means to honor the military, many of them recall personal experiences.
For Rebecca Serrano, it was a teddy bear in a care package. For Eric Gaona, it was his grandfather, an Air Force veteran who helped make him the man he is today. For Janet Stone, it was a chance Christmas encounter at the airport with deploying soldiers. For Emily Collins, it was talking with wounded warriors and meeting their service animals.
"I've always enjoyed the way USAA gives its employees a way to honor our military during Veterans Day," Rosalie Riojas says. "It's always been something I look forward to attending every year."
We asked employees to share their proudest moment honoring our military. Ten of those who responded received a pair of tickets to the big game.
Here's a few of the selected stories.
"My brother was deployed twice to Iraq," Rebecca Serrano says. "Within one of the care packages, I placed a bear wearing a military uniform that played a song by a child who was missing his deployed father. My brother is very macho, so I didn't know if he would appreciate it. He had a very small son at the time, and when I saw and heard the bear it instantly brought me to tears. Over the years I forgot about that gift.
"Last year, my children and I took a trip to visit him. Proudly displayed was that bear in the front room. Taking him down and playing with him again brought me to that moment. As I once again break down in tears, he walked in and gave me a big hug. He said he never had a chance to thank me for that bear. While he was alone overseas and going through a divorce, it was one of the main things that brought him (and the others there) hope and comfort. Very rarely have I ever seen him with a tear in his eye. It was a small gesture, quickly forgotten as it went into the box, but meant the world to someone thousands of miles away. Sometimes it is the little things that mean the most."
Eric Gaona says working at USAA is much more than just a job to him. "My grandfather adopted my mother and uncle while stationed overseas on a deployment in Turkey. In theory, I wouldn’t be alive, much less a USAA employee, if it wasn’t for the USAF. So I have my whole life to thank for the military and USAA. I do my best to honor all of our men and women in service every day, in everything I do. It is the reason I choose to work at USAA. Oh, and GO SPURS, GO!"
Janet Stone agrees that the military is like one big family. She and her daughters have never forgotten the following chance encounter, which really brought home that deep sense of community.
"My family and I were at the airport getting ready to fly home to visit family for Christmas. We noticed a group of young soldiers that were huddled up against the wall waiting on their flight. My twin daughters (9 years old at the time) asked me if they (the soldiers) get to go home to see their families for Christmas too. Being the brazen young children that they are, they went over and asked them. The young soldiers said no, they were headed overseas and wouldn't get to see their family for Christmas.
"Being from a long line of military members, we know how heartbreaking it is not to have your entire family home for the holidays. So we decided to do what we could and went to the gift shop and bought each of the soldiers a big bag full of treats and spent several hours laughing and talking with them. It wasn't much, but it meant the world to us, and there were lots of hugs and tears when it was time to leave. Several of the soldiers were very brave but also very young, and just having someone there meant the world to them.
"Both of my daughters now want to be in the military, and they remind me of the time that we met the soldiers in the airport. And how even when they are away from home, they will never be alone, because there will always be people who are proud of the U.S. fighting force and will be there for you when you need them."
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