I realize this is a bit of a departure from my usual writing, but I want to tell you about a man who didn't let me down.
Some months ago, I sat on an airplane next to a young man fresh from Army basic training. He didn't speak until takeoff, when he awkwardly blurted out, "This is going to be really weird." I decided to go with it and asked what he meant by that. (All the while hoping he didn't mean any kind of weird that would involve me.) It was strange, he said, because the last half-dozen times he'd been in an airplane, he'd jumped out. It was a great opening line.
For the next two hours, I learned that he'd gone through basic training and jump school. (He's now a paratrooper; clearly the most badass thing one can choose to do in the military.) We talked about a lot of things, including why he'd enlisted and his feelings about going home again. He was raised in a military family.
I have a military family too, and was raised with a respect for it. Without going into the politics of it, I don't always agree with the actions of the US military. But soldiers? That's a different story. In my family, that's something you honor and respect.
I asked how he felt about his upcoming deployment, thinking that it's a pretty scary time in the world to be facing deployment to the Middle East. He shrugged his shoulders. I got the impression that it was still quite new to him, that it hadn't fully hit him. He enlisted because he felt like it was something he should do. He said he didn't like sitting back knowing there was more he could be doing. I commented that he was doing something selfless--I'm certain I don't possess that kind of bravery. I actually felt ridiculous as the words came out of my mouth. I was sure this kid would look at me and think, "Lady, there is no need to get sentimental about this, ok? You're not going to cry, are you? It's just something I do, whatever." It didn't go that way at all, though. (Fortunately.) His attitude was really surprising, particularly for a man in his early 20s. (We all know that demographic typically sucks at life.) "Oh," he said softly. He struggled for words. "I don't...thank you. That means a lot." He spoke like I was doing him a favor.
"It's the truth," I said.
So to that kid, who never told me his name but told me plenty of funny and interesting stories, thanks for making my flight anything but boring. I sometimes think about him when there are troops on the news being deployed to Afghanistan...and I hope he's ok.
And while you're home from work today enjoying your day off, take a minute to think about why we observe Memorial Day.