“I Was On The Beach”

Guess what I did today?

Whatever I wanted.

This point was brought home to me today courtesy of a chance encounter.

I went to do a little martial arts tonight.

On my way home I decided to get a little dinner.  Subway.  Perfect.  Only one car there.  Get a little protein, a cookie or two and be headed home to eat and relax.

When I parked I walked up to the door past a large, cream colored sedan.  The license plates bore the symbol of the “Purple Heart”.    My basic knowledge of this is that a recipient earns this if he is in the United States of America military and is injured during active duty.

I walked in to Subway and there were two tables with people in them.

One table held a gentleman around the age of 88 to 90.   A beautiful woman sitting next to him about the same age.  And a woman who bore a resemblance to both of them, sitting across the booth facing them.   I smiled and went to the counter to order.  I turned to look at them.  I smiled at him.

While waiting for my food I had a conversation in my head:

I should tell them hi.

No, leave them alone.

Just say hi.  They might appreciate it.

No, they might not appreciate being intruded upon.

While paying for my sandwich and cookies I managed to bungle everything because I didn’t have any pockets.  I was dropping money and having a difficult time holding keys, phone, dollar bills, coins, a bottle of pop and keeping my cookies out so I could eat them quickly.   I was hungry.

I got a little flustered.  Obviously I’m not going to speak.   I don’t want to not offer my hand to shake.

The poor boy at the register just looked at me while I was dropping and picking everything up.  Finally I just dumped it all in the bag with my sandwich and left  him relieved at the counter.

I walked up to the gentleman and his lovely women and asked “is that your car?  With the purple heart?”

“Yes it is”.   Before ‘it is’ was out of his mouth I had my hand out and he was just as quick to grab it.

I said “thank you very much for your service to us.  I appreciate you.”

He said something softly that I couldn’t quite hear so I leaned in and said “was it World War II?”

Softly, so that I had to lean in.  He said “yes ma’am.  Second wave.  June 6th, I was on the beach”.   I pulled back in awe.  And shock.  I didn’t see a 90 year old man.  I saw a soldier.  I saw a man who saw things I would never be able to handle.  He didn’t have to tell me the year.  Or the beach.  I knew what he meant.

His daughter, I presume, said “thank you so much for speaking to him”.   His wife was saying “thank you” at the same time.

I told him that I appreciate everything he did for us.  He said “it’s the one’s who didn’t come back that matter”.

I told him “you all matter to us”.

We exchanged some pleasantries.

But there sat another man, another soldier, that I truly owe my ability to do what ever I want to do.  What ever I want to work for.  What ever I want to vote for.  What ever I want to appreciate in my life.

I owe it to him.  And many like him.

I am lucky to have run in to him while I was out freely running around.