After hours at highway speeds, Camp Pendleton was far behind, some 900 miles behind. Brian was pleased to drive the rental truck for his deployed son’s young family, but the grandkids were restless, and their mother was hoping to make Boise before dark. Even stopped for gas, he was hustling internally. What is taking so long? Cold drinks and gas money in hand, Brian focused in on the fellow ahead of him in the unmoving line.
The man was quite short. No, he was stooped, thin and white haired. His hands were a bit shaky as he slowly counted out the exact change. Oh, boy. The skin on those shaky hands was thin, almost translucent, like that of the very old . . . Like Dad’s just before he died. Brian took a deep breath and slowed himself down. Lord, there is always time to honor isn’t there? The line behind him was growing quite long and impatient, but Brian had also noticed an important word on the back of the man’s cap—Marine. He fought for us, we can wait for him. When the white-haired gentleman finally got his wallet back in his pocket and turned around, the front of his baseball hat told more of his story—WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Fully aware of the restless line behind him, Brian stuck out his hand, and said “Thank you for your service, sir.”
The older fellow leaned back to look up, and he spotted tall Brian’s Vietnam Vet ball cap. As is customary for Vietnam Vets, he replied, “Welcome home, son.” Usually the next question is “Where were you stationed?” Vets then swap stories and attempt, however clumsily, to validate one another. Surprisingly, this career Marine had a different question. “Are you too tough for a hug?”
Brian, the younger grandfather, opened his long arms to the stooped old man, but he was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder. “Got room for one more?” A third Vietnam Vet introduced himself as a pilot out of Laos. There, in a roadside gas/convenience store somewhere in southwestern Idaho, three seasoned vets hugged and tried not to cry. When the masculine, three way hug ended, there was some throat-clearing and back thumping. Eventually, the oldest warrior turned to leave.
There stood almost a dozen folks waiting in line—whose impatience had simply disappeared . . . disappeared into quiet respect. An older lady beamed her approval while one young man was a bit agog. Others nodded, saluted or grinned. Sometimes we honor our Veterans and fallen heroes—without even a parade.