Honor is more than a few sack lunches
Someone sent me this over the Internet via email. I found it heartwarming and thought you might, too. So, I pass it along.
I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight and I was glad I had a good book to read. Perhaps I will even get a short nap, I thought.
Just before takeoff, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, virtually surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.
“Where are you headed?” I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.
“Petawawa,” he said with a smile. “We’ll be there for two weeks for special training and then we’re being deployed to Afghanistan.”
After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east coast and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time.
As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch.
“No,” he said. “That seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait ‘til we get to base.”
His friend agreed and I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying the sack lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a $50 bill.
“Take a lunch to each of those soldiers,” I said.
She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly and her eyes were wet with tears as she thanked me.
“My son was a soldier in Iraq,” she said. “It’s almost like you are doing it for him.”
Picking up 10 sack lunches, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, “Which do you like best, beef or chicken?”
“Chicken,” I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.
“This is your thanks,” she said.
After we finished eating, I again went to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me.
“I saw what you did and I want to be part of it,” he said. “Here, take this.” He handed me $25.
Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the flight captain coming down the aisle, looking at the seat numbers as he walked. I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled and held out his hand.
“I want to shake your hand,” he said.
Quickly unfastening my seat belt, I stood and took the captain’s hand.
With a booming voice he said,
“I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.” I was embarrassed
when I heard applause from all of the passengers. Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another $25 in my palm.
When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me and put something in my shirt pocket, then turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another $25!
Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to the young man I had first talked with on the plane and handed him $75.
“It will take you some time to reach the base,” I said. “It will be about time for a sandwich. God bless you.”
Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.
As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals; it seemed so little.
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “the citizens of United States” for an amount of “up to and including my life.” That is honor and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.