A chance meeting on Memorial Day
I went to the mall today with the family for no particular reason, basically to kill some time, get out of the house for a bit, and grab some lunch. On the way out, I saw an older African-American couple coming up to the door that we were exiting, so, being the good Southern boy that I am I paused to hold the door open for them. The woman came through first and gave me a polite smile and thanked me. The gentleman with her walked with a cane and moved a bit more slowly, and as he approached I noticed that he had a hat identifying himself as retired Navy. When he came closer to the door I extended my hand and thanked him for his service (it is Memorial Day, after all).
He stopped short and looked at me for a second, and then took my hand and smiled. After a second he said something that depressed me more than just about anything I’ve heard a stranger say in a long time.
“I was in the service for 20 years and retired from the Navy 26 years ago, and you’re the first person ever to thank me. I appreciate that a lot.”
I didn’t really know what to say to that, other than simply, “You’re welcome. I’m sorry it took so long.” He smiled back at me and continued on after his wife into the store.
How depressing is that? 20 years of service to his country and it took somebody 26 years simply to say two words of thanks? As you are on your way today (and really, every day), keep that in mind next time you see a man or woman in uniform. Don’t make them wait 26 years to hear a simple thank you. Regardless of how you feel about the politicians and authorities that send them into harm’s way, the men and women who volunteer for service and risk their lives in defense of our country deserve at least that from all of us.
A sincere thank you to all who have served and offered up their “last full measure of devotion.”