So I was at the gas station today when I spotted a young man in an Army uniform paying for his gas. I glanced around the station to see what type of vehicle he was driving. My two-year-old daughter was in the back seat and I like to point out the cool army vehicles these boys drive to my kids. Not seeing any Humvee in the gas station, I figured he came in a regular car. No big deal.
So I finish pumping my gas, get my receipt and go to get in my car when I happen to look over and come eye to eye with another soldier in the same uniform.
“How you doin’?” he smiled.
“How are you?” I reply as I flash a quick smile and hop in my car.
I hear him say something like “Fine, thank you,” but I’d already closed the car door and was starting the engine.
It wasn’t until after I had put my car in gear and started backing out of the gas pump that I realized that I was rather rude to this young man. He was being perfectly friendly and I basically ignored him and went about my business. Sheesh, I’m a jerk.
The thought has occurred to me, when I see a man or woman in uniform to just walk up to them, shake their hand and say thank you. Thank you for serving our country. Thank you for putting your life on the line so my family can live free, without the fear of violence or poverty upon them.
Last year, my son’s Cub Scout pack took up a collection of items to send to the troops in Afghanistan after a deadly attack in the mountains left eight US soldiers dead and all their supplies obliterated. My friend was a member of that troop so I chose to head up the collection and send the supplies in his name.
Later that year I saw a soldier loading boxes into his car in the parking lot of Staples and the urge came to me to walk over and just say thank you. But instead I chose to mind my business and post a thank you to my friend’s Facebook wall instead.
I’m ashamed that I didn’t do anything. That no words of encouragement or thankfulness came from me to that soldier in the parking lot. That I was too wrapped up in my own things to take a minute and talk to those soldiers in the gas station today.
Why can’t I? How come I can talk to people I went to high school with that are serving our country that I haven’t spoken to in YEARS and thank them for the service they’re providing, but I can’t walk up to a stranger in a military uniform and shake their hand? Aren’t they all doing the same job? Don’t they deserve to know what a fine job they are doing?
I confided in my soldier friend this awful truth about myself and his words to me were simple. Although I can’t remember them exactly, he said something along the lines of “Don’t ever be afraid to thank a soldier. They are just regular people and like to know they’re making a difference in someone’s life.”
So my message to you is simple. This holiday season, as you give thanks for your family and your friends and your life, take a moment and give thanks for our soldiers who are out there, not just overseas, but here on our soil as well, risking their lives so we can live free and love life.
And to those soldiers that I have encountered on the street, in a parking lot or at a gas station, I’m sorry for staring. I’m sorry for worrying that you’ll think I’m weird. And I’m sorry for not offering at least a little bit of gratitude.
Thank you for the work you’re doing to protect this great country of ours. May you all return to your families, safe and soon. God Bless.
Article first published as Thankful For Our Soldiers, Ashamed Of Myself…… on Technorati.
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