Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Met a Hero Today

I was doing some clean up through some files on the PC, and ran across the folder where I used to do some writing when the mood struck me. There's a lot of crap in there, but some are OK. Every once and a while I'll dust one off and plop it here for your perusal.

Since winter up here continues its depressing grind, here's one from the summer of 2006. It's got thunderstoms, heroes, and ice cream. What more could you want?

I hope you enjoy:

I’m pretty sure I met a hero today.

My wife and I stopped at the local ice cream shop for a Friday night cone. The skies had erupted, and the quick 10 foot sprint to the dry sanctuary of the store still rendered both of us soaking. That’s where I saw him.

I was first met with a broad smile that’s shared by human beings (but especially Minnesotans) anytime one of us encounters hardship brought on by the weather. The smile clearly said, “Man, you guys are wet!” The smile was broadly returned, just as it always is in any of these types of situations.

Shaking off, the next obvious thing in the shop was that our smiling greeter was standing on two brand new prosthetic legs.

We exchanged small talk and ordered our ice cream. My wife and I then retired to a table, while our greeter took a seat on the bench and began to read the paper. I wanted to say something, especially “Thank you for your service,” but a dozen doubts crossed my head. What if he lost his legs on a motorcycle, in a farm accident, or something other than the war? Judging by his age, his eyes that belied his chronological age, his high/tight haircut, and his physical conditioning, he had to be a vet. But what if my thanks caused him pain? That wouldn’t be good. So like so many others, I chose to do the easy thing and continued to sit on my ample rear end, did nothing, and ate my ice cream.

In the mean time, I watched the sights developing around me. Families and kids entered and ordered, making the scene something that a 2006 version on Norman Rockwell would relish. The picture evoked one that was a complete stereotype of America. Family. Security. Ice cream on a summer night. The kind of thing defines what our fighting forces are paying the ultimate prices to protect. And to the side sat our man, and I wondered what he thought as the din from the kids grew and the little shop filled up. I wondered if he was proud, or sad, or angry, or regretful, or…

Soon the rain let up, and it was time to leave. We got up the same time as our guy, and our eyes met again. Once more that big smile hit me, and we simultaneously nodded at each other, but I said nothing. We headed for the door and went our separate ways. On the drive home, I was struck by that smile, coming from someone that had obviously seen and been through so much. And I thought of how I frown so easily when pathetic little things happen to me in my little insignificant life. When it comes to honor and dealing with adversity, I’m unworthy to be in the same room with the likes of him, or any our veterans for that matter.

I’m pretty sure I met a hero today. And despite multiple opportunities, I failed to tell him, “thank you.”

At least I’m consistent.

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