The Long Weekend

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.

19 thoughts on “The Long Weekend”

  1. Fruit Salad & Mass Transit

    Think of our Soldiers Every now and Then This weekend, Val Prieto told me about an interesting experience he had….

  2. Fruit Salad & Mass Transit

    Think of our Soldiers Every now and Then This weekend, Val Prieto told me about an interesting experience he had….

  3. We must be a lot alike, because I was riding shotgun with you the whole way.

    Because of life I wasn’t able to finish my Memorial Day tribute to my father in time, so I’ll be posting it on his birthday, Bastille Day.

    But if you don’t mind, as a preview, perhaps that Marine on the bench was my father, Alan Van Fleet du Bois, Corporal, Pacific Theater, waiting to go back home to his beloved Hawaii that those bastards bombed, wearing his scars and his decorations:

    Five Purple Hearts
    One Bronze Star
    Two Silver Stars

    He was a sniper. His aim was true.

    JdB

  4. Still here!!

    Hi, everybody. I’m very sorry for the lack of blogging, but our computer has been down since the last entry on May 18th. Mommy and daddy have been trying to fix it, but have not had any luck. Hope everybody…

  5. Val… a little rabbinics for you. At least as far as I’ve learned, according to Jewish tradition, you’re going to be credited Upstairs for the intent as if you had actually fulfilled it. You did everything you could.

    Among my favorite memories was picking up hitchhiking Israeli soldiers during the summer of 1996 when I had a job in Jerusalem. Sadly, I rarely see a uniform here in Los Angeles, but would do what you did in a second.

  6. Scott,

    I think everyone else needed to thank him as well.

    Jerome,

    A heartfelt thanks to your father for his sacrifice and his service. And Im privileged to have you ride shotgun.

    Aaron,

    I believe the same thing, it’s the intent that matters. Still, I would have been honored to give that Marine a ride.

  7. Good on you, Val. Better to have made the effort and seen another do it first than to have passed up that opportunity and always wonder “why didn’t I do that?” I know, because something like that happened to me many years ago, and I blew it, and I still think about it.

    I was working in downtown Chicago, it was the day after Thanksgiving, and the streets were deserted at 5 pm. As I was hurrying for my train, I saw a young black woman with two cute little kids walking with her, and she very politely asked me if I knew where a certain soup kitchen was. “I’m sorry, no” was my reply; I felt bad for her, but couldn’t think of anything to do for her. Let me tell you, the contrast between seeing a young mother and two small children searching for food on the day after Thanksgiving is a stark one. She thanked me anyway, and continued on her way, and those little kids dutifully followed her. I walked away and only later realized I had $10 in my pocket that she surely needed a lot more than I did.

  8. Sam,

    Thank you.

    Jeff,

    I guess we all have moments like that that we wish we could relive. I wish I had not been in such a hurry on Friday and would have seen the Marine there before. I would have immediately pulled over.

    Hook,

    My thanks to you sir. It’s men like yourself and that Marine that take point so we can go about our lives without worries.

    Other MikeS,

    I know we dont always agree, but you’re right, I should post this every Memorial Day. Thank you.

  9. Ok…between you and Bill over at INDC Journal, the water works have been pouring.

    I’m so glad you were not the only one who was grateful enough for this man’s sacrifice to stop and give him a ride.

    It would have been great if it was you because you would have a new friend and we would all get to hear the rest of the wonderful story…but I’m glad someone else recognized the necessity of the act.

    And yah, I would have done the EXACT same thing.

  10. Wednesday

    Getting to this kind of late in the evening the last few nights. Well, it’s storming again, only this time mostly to the north. That’s fitting, because last night it was to the south. The lightning and wind are still…

  11. Wow uncle this was awesome. It brought tears to my eyes because one of my closest friends is actually a Marine also and it hurts to think he, or any of his courageous fellow collegues, our heros, would be treated with such disregard. Sometimes when you don’t see their sacrifices first hand, you forget that the scarfices DO exsist.

  12. Still here!!

    Hi, everybody. I’m very sorry for the lack of blogging, but our computer has been down since the last entry on May 18th. Mommy and daddy have been trying to fix it, but have not had any luck. Hope everybody…

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