I was planning on blogging about the true meaning of Memorial Day this weekend but fate had other plans for me the past three days. How does the saying go? The best laid plans of mice and men?…..
I left the office on Friday at about 2 p.m., anxious for the long weekend to start and ready to finish whatever things needed to be done around the house that day. There was a new washer and dryer to install and the pool pump had been making some weird shrieking noises since the night before. I wanted to connect the washer and dryer, fix the noise on the pump, mow the lawn and seal the driveway all before noon on Saturday. That way I could relax, slow down, enjoy the yard and pool and do a little bit of Memorial blogging. Obviously, I was in a hurry to get home.
I was trying to beat the early onslaught of traffic that occurs whenever a long weekend looms. Hauling ass trying to get home. As I approached the now infamous traffic light where I seem to only see morons with stupid bumper stickers it turned yellow. I punched it to make the light. As I started to cross the street I saw something – a vision, a gift, one of life’s little gems like I call them – that will stay with me forever.
There on the corner, in the middle of the afternoon Miami sun and heat, on a bus bench sat a Marine. He was in his dress blues and white hat sitting there in the center of the bench. He sat straight up, chest out, stoic. A little camouflage bag sat next to him. The left side of his dress blue jacket was strewn with bars. Here was a majestic sight atop a bus bench advertising piano lessons.
The minute I crossed the street I realized there were much much more important things in life than connecting a washer and fixing a pool pump. Here was a Marine not much older than 24 or 25, a man of average build and height, with a chestful of decorations. He had probably just returned from the war, and was baking in the hot sun while waiting for a bus on the Friday before Memorial Day.
I was not about to let that man wait another second. This Marine was probably on his way home, perhaps on leave, for the first time in God knows how long and he was wasting precious time waiting for a bus. This Marine took point for me. A duty handed over by all those who came and died before him for the past 200 years. The very same men we were to honor on Memorial Day.
I pulled a screeching u-turn. I was going to pull up next to him and say “Marine, do you need a ride?” I was going to give a little back and I was a bit angry that this Marine should have to wait. That this Marine had not been offered a ride by the countless people that just drove by him. What the hell is that? How could anyone not offer this Marine a ride? A man who had probably risked his life for us, a man who had most assuredly seen his share of battles and friends die in the service of his country? It was unacceptable.
Regardless of any of my plans, I was going to take this Marine to his doorstep. I was going to thank him for his sacrifice and for his service. I was going to show him that he has the respect, admiration and support of the very same people he is willing to die for.
This time the traffic signal caught me going the opposite direction. Red light. I was in the number one pole position, at the very front. I sat there and stared at the Marine. He hadn’t flinched. He hadn’t moved and inch. He still sat there rigid and disciplined. My eyes teared up. What could possibly have been going through his mind as he sat there as all those people just kept driving by him? Couldn’t they see that this Marine was on his way home? Couldn’t they see that this Marine offered up the prime of his life for the service of his country?
As I sat at the light an old Bronco pulled up next to him. The Marine stood, walked over to the truck and spoke to the driver. Then he turned around, walked over to the bench, picked up his camo bag and made his way back to the Bronco. He got in, the light changed, and they drove past me.
I was a little disappointed that it wasnt me to ultimately give the Marine a ride, but I was glad to see that there are others who recognize the sacrifices of such men.
The rest of my weekend was spent working around the house. I managed to connect the washer and dryer. I managed to install a new pool pump and seal the driveway and mow the lawn and take care of a few other chores. I had Steve over for a BBQ on Sunday and we had a pretty good time and a great meal. But chances are I’ll have trouble remembering all of these some day. Yet I will never forget that Marine. And I will always remember I never got to thank him.