Veterans Day is a time to honor all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering men and women who died while serving.
So what better day to celebrate the beginning of the lives of a Berlin couple who met while waiting in line for their in-process physical at Fort Eustis in Newport News, VA (Now joint base Langley-Eustis.)
Joe Bajorski graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 1984 and Norwich University, also known as the Military College of Vermont in 1988. At the same time, Leslie Blaser was leaving her Bronx home to attend Gettysburg College in PA., also graduating in 1988.
"We were waiting in line for our physical and I found out she was from Connecticut," Joe Bajorski said. "She told me she was originally from the Bronx but her parents had moved to Stratford. Since we were both from here, we started talking and got closer. I think we were dating within four weeks. I gave her a ride home to Stratford from Virginia for Thanksgiving and you really get to know someone when you're in a car with them for 13 hours. We have been together ever since."
Both were in the National Guard and stationed to units in Connecticut upon their graduation from Officer's Basic Course, Joe Bajorski in Middletown and Leslie Blaser in Waterbury.
Blaser decided to move to the central Connecticut area and lived in New Britain as the two continued to date and on Oct. 16, 1993 the two were married. They have a three-year-old son, Wyatt.
"We were both put on high alert during the Gulf War but since we were both light infantry we were never deployed," Joe Bajorski said. "We were both in logistics and transportation so we dealt with planes, trains and automobiles as they say."
Leslie said that her father, a World War II veteran, told her to check out the ROTC program in college.
"My father encouraged me to look into the ROTC program at school and I thought he was crazy but I didn't shoot it down right away," Leslie said. "I'm glad I did it. You get such great leadership training, team building skills and confidence from ROTC and the military. Not only that but the physical part of it was great. I never played any sports or did anything physical growing up. Once I got into the Army, I got into exercise and it's something I have carried with me and still love. When you're going through it, it's hell, but looking back it really prepared you for life."
As the years have gone on both Joe and Leslie Bajorski have known people who have been affected by war and the sacrifice for this country.
"Veterans Day is not only about those serving our country but those who made the ultimate sacrifice," Joe said. "I know through the Gulf War and Iraq and Afghanistan, we have lost a few classmates from Norwich and that hits home. I have friends still over there and it's important to recognize their sacrifice of time away from their family and friends.
"Wyatt is three and I think about that a lot. I couldn't imagine not being here for his first step or his first words. Listening to what he says now, I can't imagine missing that but our military are missing those things. You can't get that time back. Missing those things would be heartbreaking."
Leslie encouraged people to take pause today.
"It's a day to take time out of your normal schedule and consider the sacrifices that were made by the military for the prosperity of this country," Leslie said. "Joe and I are veterans but not combat veterans. Those are the people that I really admire. They volunteer. We didn't feel the threat that our military feels today. There is simply more risk in the world now than when we were in. I have a true appreciation for the military and their families."