Today Is Veteran’s Day

hero-matthew-porter
[a piece I wrote a few years back]

I saw him several times as I moved from aisle to aisle at the grocery store.  I would steal a glance as I moved from ‘Cookies/Snacks/Chips’ to ‘Household Items/Stationary’, then back to ‘Bread/Rolls.’

An older, heavy-set man, fully occupying a Hoveround cart, wearing a blue cap with some kind of military insignia.  He sat an at end cap, going nowhere.  Waiting for someone, I guessed.

I bet he’s a veteran, I thought.  I should tell him ‘thank you for serving’.  I’ve done this before.  Not as a habit, but here and there.  For me, it’s not just some sweet little thing that makes me feel good.  I mean, thanks to guys who served, I can do the stuff I do, pursue my dreams, live in a house in a safe neighborhood with my wife.  The biggest injustice I have to suffer is when some jerk cuts in line at the Starbucks drive-thru.  This is the gloriously free life we get to lead because these guys stood on the wall for us.  So I figure, a little bit awkwardness in saying ‘thanks’ is a small thing.

I made my final approach to the checkout, moving toward him.  Then, at the last second, I just went to the checkout.  I don’t know why.  I don’t think of myself as a shy person, but I have these fleeting moments.

While checking out, I saw some blurb on a magazine cover about Clint Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers movie.  I glanced to my left and the guy was still there.

My opening line was ‘Did you serve?’

“Why d’ya think I got this?” he replied, motioning to his hat.

I don’t remember his name; I do remember when I shook his hand, his grip was strong and that he didn’t let go of my hand.  I do remember he looked me square in the eye.  I do remember he said he was there at D-Day.  I do remember noticing one of his legs wasn’t his own.  I do remember him lifting his hat, showing me his souvenir, a deep, ugly, scabby wound covering most of his head.

What can you say to a group of people who did so much for us?  All I can think of is to say, I remember.  We remember.

And thank you.

– Matthew Porter

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