Two uniformed young men, camouflaged and booted, greeted shoppers at the local grocery store this weekend. They had a table set up with a basket of small American flags on it, along with a wide mouth jar with plenty of room for whatever offerings they could gather. They were friendly guys with wide smiles on their faces. Unlike the boy scouts or girl scouts, they weren’t selling sugary, mass produced cookies that do little for our bodies and less for the kids that sell them (my bias–bare with me). They saluted each and every shopper entering the store and asked, “Would you like to help returning military personnel and their families?” Simple, no pressure. I returned the salute–an instinctive gesture–perhaps not authentically delivered as I’m not, nor have been, a trained soldier. I did a thumbs up, too, for his service and moved closer to the door. But the returned salute caught the younger man’s attention. He drew back, wide eyed and said ‘thank you’ as though the salute meant a great deal to him. Then he handed me a small flag. I stopped. “The thanks is all mine,” I said.
“It’s good to hear, Ma’am. Music to my ears after being in Afghanistan three times.” I couldn’t help but be impressed. But what took my breath away was the statement, “I love my country and I hope these flags remind everyone about their duty to vote.” One thing led to another and he reported that he wasn’t allowed to vote in the last election…an administrative maneuver that didn’t allow time for the ballots to be ‘secured’…oh, really, I said? Perhaps they weren’t considered worthy considering the current adminstrative faux pas? My comment, not his.
But his huge smile had an impact on me. I pulled out my wallet and gave my grocery money to the returning veteran’s family fund. An impulse, an easy gesture, not done to receive accolades. I crumpled my grocery list in my pocket and headed home. Flag in hand. A shelf with dried pasta, soup mix, a can of tuna, a chicken in the the freezer. What more did I need?
When a favored niece, who’s a Captain in the Army and also a dedicated registered trauma nurse working with fellow soldiers, sent me a picture of her son, also in the Army and preparing for further duties, I decided to share this story. I also posted the picture on Facebook so others see that these dedicated young people work with smiles on their faces.
I’m proud to say I know some of these brave men and women who keep our nation free. Each one deserves out attention, our support, our thanks. I don’t do enough for them.
Let’s make sure their vote and ours count every year. No matter where they serve, they keep us free and our duty is to give them our support.
Pass the soup, please.