The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Thank You For Your Service

He ambled through the aisle of the convenience store. His hat read “Veteran: World War II.” I beamed at him, as I do at most elderly people, and he stopped moving in order to really smile back. He was shorter than I, wearing beige suspenders, navigating the store with a cane. I thanked him for his service and asked, if he didn’t mind my asking, where was he deployed during the War? He was in the Pacific. I sighed, I could feel my eyebrows gathering down over my now-watery eyes. He drove a boat that took the troops to shore. He spent his 18th and 19th birthdays on invasions. He loitered by the Gatorade. I fought the urge to hug him or see if he wanted to tag along to Nebraska. Friendly has a fine line.

In the parking lot later, he labored to get into his pickup. He hoisted himself up, leaned in, leaving his cane behind, then once firmly in his seat he craned out to grasp the handle of the cane. He placed it in the seat as a passenger. He could feel me watching him. I kept my grin wide and politely affectionate, since I didn’t want him to think I was strange. Or, bad strange. I started my car, he started his. We shared a quick departing wave of gratitude.

–Snyder, Colorado

I-25, mountains, Northern Colorado

Elsewhere in Colorado…

24 comments on “Thank You For Your Service

  1. Clanmother
    October 15, 2012

    Beautifully written – he reminded me of my father!!

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      October 15, 2012

      Oh, it is remarkable to meet Veterans from World War II. My brother is an Iraq War veteran, so I’ve got a soft spot for such experiences. Thank you, Clanmother. 😀

      • Clanmother
        October 15, 2012

        And thank you!!! You always touch my heart.

  2. applepieandnapalm
    October 15, 2012

    Absolutely lovely post!

  3. You also made me think of my father. I thought–gee, if that were in the years when dad still drove his truck everywhere and didn’t get around, well–I hope a young woman gave him an affectionate smile and took the time to chat awhile. My dad, he refused to use a cane until near the end — said it would scare his old cow pony. His reasoning always made me laugh. This is a great post.

  4. Keith
    October 16, 2012

    I make a point to thank those who served in past conflicts (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam predominantly) and it often catches them by surprise. I honestly feel that they don’t look at their “service” in the same manner as we do today. I forward that they, more than my generation, endured much greater hardships; and yet, they carry on with a quite acceptance that, to me, commands respect. Almost without exception they avoid recognition (save their respective hats and pins) and I have yet to understand the differences between our generations. All I can gather is that public support (to include our government) must make a substantial difference in how they perceived the duties they shouldered. This makes your acknowledgement to this individual all the more important. Thank you.

  5. toughguy574
    October 16, 2012

    I make a point to thank those who served in past conflicts (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam predominantly) and it often catches them by surprise. I honestly feel that they don’t look at their “service” in the same manner as we do today. I forward that they, more than my generation, endured much greater hardships; and yet, they carry on with a quite acceptance that, to me, commands respect. Almost without exception they avoid recognition (save their respective hats and pins) and I have yet to understand the differences between our generations. All I can gather is that public support (to include our government) must make a substantial difference in how they perceived the duties they shouldered. This makes your acknowledgement to this individual all the more important. Thank You

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      October 16, 2012

      Beautiful point! Yes, usually the reply is, “That was a long time ago!” Then I think of how much they have seen, and how much they have carried with them. I guess that’s why I roll my eyes when politicians call themselves public servants. Were you ever in a real trench? Ever gone without ample food and water? Ever had such weight decisions to make before breakfast? Sorry, Senator, it’s different. It’s apples and escargot. 🙂

  6. Enchanted Seashells
    October 16, 2012

    Such a lovely thing to do. I will remember to do the same!

  7. Hans Susser
    November 3, 2012

    Beautiful 🙂 Thank you.

  8. Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    In remembering those we have lost on this Memorial Day.

  9. Ellen Morris Prewitt
    May 26, 2014

    So very nice – thanks for sharing it with us

  10. Wonderful, thank you.

  11. FRED
    May 26, 2014

    As a Vietnam Vet, thank you for your kindness and love to that man. People don t remember those from WW2 where 25,000 died in one day on 6 June1944. God bless you for your thoughtfulness.

    • Thank you for your kind comment and your dutiful service to the country, Fred! You’re such a blessing. God Bless you, my friend!
      Paige

  12. PopArt (@PopArtNJ)
    May 26, 2014

    Thx for the heartfelt column Paige. You said so, so much in just a few words. I regret not appreciating what veterans like that man signified during my younger years and grateful I appreciate it now.

    • Hi Pop, my friend!
      Thank you for coming to read it. I try to be really watchful about those who have served, though they may often be shy to give a sign. I always pounce on those with hats, though! 🙂 You’re great, Pop, thanks for coming to visit the blog.
      Paige

  13. M-R
    May 26, 2014

    Quite delightful, Paige … This was probably a while back …

  14. Kim
    May 26, 2014

    Love this…and I am sure he was grateful for your kindness.

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This entry was posted on October 15, 2012 by in Happiness, Observed, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , .

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