While at a KFC in Aberdeen, Washington, I made a veteran’s wife cry. On Veteran’s Day. And then she hugged me before he, the veteran, shook my hand. And it all happened because my two year old wanted a glass of water. I was heading home with three of my kids and we had stopped for dinner at KFC before the final 90 minutes of our drive. We were eating our food when I noticed that I had forgotten to get my little one a drink. (You’d think a Stay At Home Dad of six would know better, right?) So, I walked up to the counter to ask for a water cup only to find a couple already ordering their food. As I patiently awaited my turn I noticed that the gentleman appeared to be a Vietnam Veteran (based on the jacket he was wearing which stated as much). Being that it was Veteran’s Day, I spontaneously decided to buy their dinner as a token of my appreciation for his service to our country. As he prepared to hand his credit card to the cashier, I stepped in and offered mine instead. I simply told him that I would be honored to pay for his meal since today was Veteran’s Day. I didn’t even know what the total was for their meal. I was prepared to swipe my card, request a water cup, and go back to my kids. Instead, his wife started to cry.
She looked at me and asked for a hug, which I, of course willingly gave her. As we finished our hug, her husband extended his hand to thank me. Robert Ash, the veteran, told me that he had served two tours in Vietnam and then served in the Gulf War while in his 50s. He explained that he’s the National President of the Combat Veterans International, “a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting all veterans to the best of [their] ability, with an emphasis on combat veterans. [They] share a fellowship and a common interest in motorcycling.”
He explained that his group also holds a ride called The Unforgotten every Memorial Day to pay respect to fallen soldiers. (Click here to see a video about it.) He proudly told how they drive, as a group, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Bremerton to Mt. Tahoma Cemetery. I told them how much I appreciated and respected the sacrifices that countless men and women like him made in service to our country and how living in the PNW near an active military base (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM) has really opened my eyes to the sacrifice and dedication of the loved ones of those who are serving. I’ve always held our veterans in high esteem as my grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and my uncle was a Vietnam vet. I have several other relatives and many friends who have served or are currently serving in our Armed Forces. Yet, there I was, on a rainy Veteran’s Day in a small fishing town in western Washington, shaking hands with a man who served at least three tours overseas. It’s crazy how life works sometimes.
As I returned to our table with my daughter’s glass of water, I was kind of shaking my head at the randomness it all. I share this experience with you not to draw attention to me doing something nice for someone else, but, rather, to show how easy it is. I don’t know about you, but there are few times in life when doing a nice thing for someone else is as easy, obvious and rewarding as this was for me. It was a chance encounter at the KFC counter that happened because my kid wanted a drink of water.