George Greco, a neighbor and friend, invited me to be his guest at the 46th USO of Metropolitan New York armed forces gala and gold medal dinner. Anyone who has served in the military knows the great work that this nonpartisan, nonpolitical, privately funded, volunteer organization does, not only in the more publicized entertainment sector, but also in the often-unheralded mission of assisting U.S. military personnel and their families.
Amongst the many dress uniforms representing the five branches of service were the grey uniforms of the recent class of United States Military Academy at West Point. As a point of table conversation, the topic of how many brass buttons adorned the uniform of these young recruits was raised. Inquiring at a nearby table filled with cadets, the question went unanswered, until a cadet started counting.
Seated at our table, by my side, was a gentleman who, upon the singing of our national anthem, stood at such rigid attention that it surely suggested a past military heritage. Bob Shapiro, a West Point graduate of the class of 1959, when asked how many buttons were on the uniform of his youth, answered "44," before you could bat an eye.
Buttons are but a small remembrance of lessons learned while serving one's nation.