I stopped at the Broadway Market after stopping at a client’s (St. Stan’s) and used a bunch of savings book coupons. While waiting in line, I saw a gentleman with a hat that said WWII / Korea Veteran. I told him he didn’t look old enough to have been in WWII, to which he told me he was 78 years old. The military card he showed me placed his service date starting December 1st, 1941. That’s right, he LIED ABOUT HIS AGE to go to war at 15 years old. First in the Navy, then later returning to serve in Texas, and hating it so much he joined the Air Force to travel about the world again (Sweeden, etc.). Then (I think he was in the army in the Carolinas by this point) he pulled some favors (including what he implied was a bribe) in order to be SHIPPED TO KOREA. He said he made a lot of friends and saw lots of dead bodies – “truckloads” of them in fact.
He recounted a number of people who came from rich families who ignored ways out, one of them refusing to leave the service even after the death of his father. His conclusion was that when people are around a bunch of people who actually fought in wars, and themselves not having had enlisted or serving wartime somewhere at home (mumbling Bush under his breath a few times I think), they should hang their heads in shame.
I can’t say I agree with him to that extreme (althoguh I almost regret not having served in the military at all), but when you meet a man like that you better DAMN-WELL LISTEN. This man is the reason we are free, and why we can sleep at night and shop at Wal-Mart and sip Cappucinos without fear that we ourselves (heaven forbid) have to defend our own and our familiy’s freedom with our OWN lives. All I could do is shake his hand and thank him in my own way.
I didn’t ask his name, and I didn’t want to know. This is not what you think – To me, no name could be placed upon the respect I have for such a man and others like him. I wanted to believe that through having met him, I had encountered the “unknown soldier”, the totality of those countless, nameless men who have (and still do today) represent the ultimate commitment and sacrifice for their fellow man and the ideals we find worthy as a nation.