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A Volunteer with a Purple Heart

By: Brenda, Director of Education and Volunteers, Audubon Zoo

Today is Veteran’s Day.  It’s a holiday that many of us, myself included, only really think of as a federal holiday with banks and post offices closed.  An Audubon Zoo volunteer made me think about it with much more meaning today.  Michael is an adult volunteer who has been with the Audubon Zoo education department for almost five years.  He has volunteered on  Zoomobile, Wetland Express, summer camp and our Zoo’s Discovery Walk. He is a retired educator who has a passion and flair for teaching and inspiring.  He is also quite the carpenter and if you look around the Discovery Walk you will see his handmade specialty birdhouses.  Michael is also a Vietnam veteran.  

Michael came to my office today to show me things that he has shown very few people in his life.  There was a photograph of him at just twenty years old in his army uniform, photographs he took of the helicopter he flew in and then in a worn, long black box.  In the box was his Purple Heart.  I have never touched a Purple Heart medal.  It is heavy and Michael looked at it proudly as I held it.  Michael doesn’t like to talk about the war.  It is not a pleasant thing and like all veterans he saw things that we will never see or understand, but  today is Michael’s favorite holiday and I understand why.

I walked out to Discovery Walk to get a photo of Michael and I saw veterans sitting on the bench around the elephant pond.  I stopped to thank them.  I was happy that they came to the zoo to enjoy this beautiful day with us.  I hope their experience here today is a great one.

Please, thank the veterans  and military personnel today and every day.  They are our neighbors, our teachers and our volunteers.  I salute you Michael.  Thank you.

Audubon Nature Institute salutes our nation’s military service members, both active duty and veterans, for their dedication and courage. As a special thank you we are offering complimentary admission on November 11, 2011 to Audubon Zoo, Audubon Insectariumor Audubon Aquarium of the Americasfor all military personnel (active and retired) and their guests.

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