EDITOR’S NOTE: In honor of Veteran’s Day, we’re re-running this column by Dave Markwell:
“The soldier has come to believe, and with considerable reasons, that those who talk about ideals do not fight for them, and that those who fight for them do not talk about them. The soldier knows that when the nation fights for freedom in far-flung areas of the world, he must lose his freedom, his comfort and even his identity for the duration of the conflict. The ideals for which he is fighting can have little meaning for any soldier so long as the war lasts, while for those who die and for many of the wounded they can never have any meaning at all. He knows that those who speak so glibly of ideals have no conception of what the process of enforcing those ideals means in terms of pain and starvation and death and horror.” – written by Willard Waller, WWII Veteran in 1944
Several years ago, getting ready to return home from a visit to my wife’s family in upstate New York, I had a not atypical airport experience. My mother-in-law had driven us to the airport and we were surprisingly early. Our kids were much younger then and in a semi-desperate plan to avoid them having to spend any more time sitting around in an airport than absolutely necessary, my wife and I left them with her mom while we went to check our bags and get some of the airport hassles out of the way without the burden of fussy kids making it worse.
While at the check-in counter, it was discovered that one of our bags was overweight and this would require an extra $35 fee. This was annoying, but not a huge deal. It was not a big deal until I discovered that I had left my wallet in my carry on bag that remained in the car with my kids and mother-in-law. The car was not close and the line behind us was starting to stretch to an uncomfortable level. Faced with a long walk back to the car and a long wait in a line that I was already at the front of, I was agitated. Not overwhelmingly so, but I really wanted some other solution to arise. With none in sight, I prepared myself to take the trip I did not want to take.
Apparently, my situation was overheard by a nice gentleman and his wife. As I was getting ready to leave on my journey, they stepped up and offered to pay for the overweight bag. They had kids, too, and though the children were now grown ups, they remembered the days. I politely refused, but they insisted. I relented, tremendously grateful for my saviors. Following the transaction, I asked for their address so I could send them a check to repay their generosity. They politely, but adamantly refused. The man said, “If you want to repay me, anytime you see a Marine in a bar, buy him a beer.” I was struck by his request, but took it seriously. He was kind and nice, but also serious. I told him I would do so. Then, we all left to live our different lives.
I have and will never forget that day when my wife and I were saved a tremendous hassle and inconvenience by a Marine veteran and his wife. And I have happily and gratefully bought many, many beers over the years. I have met men and women I would not have met otherwise and my life is better for it and this Marine’s gift remains one of the best I have ever received.
This Veteran’s Day, I remember this Marine and his contribution to my life. Though, it was small, it was not insignificant and, for me, really represents the character and grace and kindness this country’s Marines and soldiers embody. This recognition has changed my life and how I perceive our military men and women. Before being soldiers or Marines, they are people. They are father and sons, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends. They love and are loved. They have fears and doubts and they smile and are funny. They are us.
While our views of wars are as different as we are as people, I believe that a collective and universal respect, admiration and appreciation of our military men and women transcends our political opinions. This is important. All that we possess in this great country was traded for the blood of our soldiers. Anything we have, are or will be is a gift bestowed by the men and women serving or having served in our armed forces. Nothing is free and our way of life is expensive. The debts our young men and women have paid on our behalf is incalculable and worthy of note on this Veteran’s Day and every day. So this day I will salute and say a heartfelt “thank you” to our service people and remember the soldiers that gave all they had for us. I will remember the families of our lost soldiers, who gave all they had, too. And if I see a Marine in a bar, I will buy him a beer, today and forever. It’s the least I can do.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]