He was an old man, crippled by years of arthritis. Seven years ago I saw him sitting outside the garden area of a nearby Walmart. Someone provided him with one of those cheap, folding metal chairs and there he sat. Most folks entering the store simply ignored him, some nodded as they walked by and other just assumed he was was some sort of character looking for a handout and sort of snarled or looked the other way when they walked by his perch.
Having seen this sort of thing before and being an old Navy vet, I noticed that he was wearing one of those baseball caps that declared that he too was a veteran and a Navy one at too. That old ball cap had embroidered across the front, USS Intrepid, CV 11.
I stopped and talked with him and soon realized despite the worn out old body, there was a sparkle in his eye. We spoke of ships and planes.......his era so different and raw. CV 11, USS Intrepid........repeatedly attacked by kamikaze aircraft during 1944, and he was there. He spoke of fire, death, fear and terror. He spoke about how the war changed his life. He spoke about all sorts of things that were important to share. Awhile later an old car pulled up driven by and elderly women.........."sweetheart", he said........she shops and I wait.........."the legs, you know?"
He walked to the car, climbed in and off he went. A store employee breathed a sigh of relief after he left. As she picked up the chair and moved it inside, I thanked her for her kindness to the old guy. Then I asked her if she had ever heard of the USS Intrepid or any of the other carriers or ships that served in the Pacific. I asked her about kamikaze's. (She probably thought it was drink). She had no idea.............so I told her about all that stuff and how she had met a genuine hero in my opinion.
There are many more Vets out there........some old, some young, some combat veterans, some not...........but they all served........men and women...........young and old alike...Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps..........all dared to walk in harms way, (and many did just that)..........to all of you.........I offer a salute and a challenge...........keep the dream of peace and freedom alive....peace and freedom for everyone.
updated by @salt-springs: 10/27/19 12:02:25PM