I was in the sandwich line in the grocery store. In front of me stood a frail older man, wearing an oxygen tube, and sporting a 'Viet Nam Veteran' ball cap. Next to him stood a white haired lady. Both were somewhat bent over by age, but the man's posture somehow still was straight and tall.
In my pony-tail, t-shirt and worn black sweatpants, I stepped up to him and patted him on the shoulder.
"Thank you for your service, sir."
He took another look at me, and smiled. "You're welcome! I was in Viet Nam!"
I stood to attention. I didn't MEAN to, it was in no way deliberate, but I popped up like I was on a parade ground.
"Viet Nam?" he asked.
"No sir, Viet Nam era, but I was in Germany. It was my job to grease the Soviet tank treads when they rolled across the Fulda Gap."
"I was in Germany, too. I was at Bad Tolz, so they had to get through me before you could grease the treads."
Bad Tolz was where the 10th Special Forces Group was stationed. The codger was a snake eater. He blew stuff up and killed people, and now he was pushing a grocery cart around Publix, just another old man to the uninitiated.And I can't quite remember how the transition happened. I just found myself talking to this old veteran and his white-haired wife about my son.
Look, I'm not going to tell the whole story right here, right now, mostly because I don't want to cry again. If you want to know why I love Mad Mike, you can read about it here as a blog post or here as an Amazon book review. Quick version: Mad Mike wrote a short story that I sent to my first-born son when he was in Afghanistan, and that short story helped my son make it through ...,
...Well, you have to read one of the links. I simply can't cry again, I don't WANT to cry again. And if I wrote more details, I would.
Just like I cried talking to the old snake eater and his wife in Publix, and continued to weep on the way home.
But today, we laugh. It's Mad Mike's birthday. My first-born son is back at work as the Dean of Students, history prof, and track coach at King's Ridge Christian Academy. He and his beautiful wife have given me two fine and healthy grandsons.
And I thank God for another day.
Happy Birthday, Mike!