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Letter: People still united by many common values

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People still united by many common values

To the editor:

I walked alone into a desolate restaurant for a quick bite of lunch prior to working a shift in a local 911 dispatch center.

As I sat at my table, I saw an elderly man walking into the business to place his order.

He was wearing an Operation Desert Storm T-shirt and wearing a hat adorned with the words Vietnam Veteran and several accompanying pins and markers. The old man hobbled to a table near the window and sat down to enjoy his food.

I could see that his skin was aged and weathered, and it made me think of how many times I had looked at an old dollar bill and wondered where it had been and what all it had endured during its existence.

After I deposited my trash, I decided to approach the man and thank him for his service for our country — words that seem too shallow for such an important task.

“Excuse me, but judging by your apparel, is it safe to presume that you are a veteran?” I inquired.

The man did not even look at me but immediately exited his booth, rose to his feet, looked up directly into my eyes, and said with firm distinction that I cannot express in print, “Yes sir, I am proud to be a veteran of the United States of America, the best country and people in the world.”

He said this simple sentence with such honor, dignity and vigor that if ever there was a time in my life when I would question this fact, I am convinced that he would have changed my mind at that moment.

Taken aback by his sincere and firm response, I no longer viewed this frail elderly man as worn and weathered; but instead, he seemed more ready to rush out of the restaurant into combat. I cleared the knot from my throat and replied, “Thank you for serving my country; it is people like you who have allowed me to enjoy the beauty of this day.”

I saw his eye become glassy-eyed, and he placed his hand up on my shoulder and said, “It’s my honor to serve this country.”

We both looked into each other’s eyes for what seemed like minutes, rather than moments — neither saying a word, while at the same time, speaking volumes. I responded with a simple “Thank you sir,” we shook hands heartily, and I departed.

I drove away wondering what difficult times this man endured walking through foreign jungles, fighting enemies he didn’t know, never knowing if each step would be his last.

I thought of the death he has seen, the friends he has lost, the loved ones he has carried. I thought of the changes he has lived through, and the times he is living through today.

This country has been through rough times many times before. In this era of political failure, uncertainty and media dramatization of politics, may we remember that we are still a strong country of people, united by many common values: the desire to succeed, the will to survive and the persistence to make tomorrow better than today.

Thank you to all the veterans who make this possible.

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