By Carolyn Johnson
Saturday, May 16th is Armed Forces Day. How proud we are of our seniors who bravely served our country. I found this story below buried in some files at the Senior Center. After reading it, I was eager to find out who wrote it. “Author Unknown” is what I found. I hope you will take time to read it.]
As I came out of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood of his car up and a lady sitting in the car with the door open. The old man was looking at the engine. I put my groceries away in my car and continued to watch the old gentleman about twenty five feet away. I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery bag in his arms, walking towards the old man. The old gentleman saw him coming too, and took a few steps toward him. I saw the old gentleman point to his open hood and say something. The young man put his grocery bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade and then turned back to the old man. I heard him yell at the old gentleman saying, “You shouldn’t even be allowed to drive a car at your age”. And then with a wave of his hand, he got in his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot.
I saw the old gentleman pull out his handkerchief and mop his brow as he went back to his car again and looked at the engine. He then went to his wife and spoke with her and appeared to tell her it would be okay. I had seen enough and I approached the old man. He saw me coming and stood straight as I got near him. I said, “Looks like you’re having a problem.” He smiled sheepishly and quietly nodded his head. I looked under the hood myself and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me. Looking around I saw a gas station up the road and told the old man that I would be right back. I drove to the station and went inside and saw three attendants working on cars. I approached one of them and related the problem the old man had with his car and offered to pay them if they could follow me back down and help.
The old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife. When he saw us, he straightened up and thanked me for my help. As the mechanics diagnosed the problem, (overheated engine) I spoke with the old gentleman.
When I shook hands with him earlier, he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine, too. I nodded and asked the usual question, “What outfit did you serve with?” He told me that he served with the first Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Guadacanal. He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over. As we talked we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics lower the hood. They came over to us as the old man reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me and I told him I would just put the bill on my AAA card.
He still reached for the wallet and handed me a card that I assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck in it my pocket. We shook hands all around again and I said my goodbyes to his wife. I then told the two mechanics that I would follow them back up to the station. Once at the station I told them they had interrupted their own jobs to come along with me and help the old man. I said I wanted to pay for the help, but they would not charge me.
One of them pulled out a card from his pocket looking exactly like the card the old man had given to me. Both of the men told me that they were Marine Corps Reserves. Once again we shook hand all around and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look at the card the old man had given to me. I said I would and drove off. For some reason I had gone about two blocks when I pulled over and took the card out of my pocket and looked at it for a long, long time. The name of the gentleman was printed in gold leaf and under his name… “Congressional Medal of Honor Society.”
I sat there motionless looking at the card and reading it over and over. I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but myself. I realized that on this day, four Marines had all come together because one of us needed help. He was an old man all right, but it felt good to have stood next to greatness and courage. And it was an honor to have been in his presence.
Remember—freedom isn’t free. Thousands have paid the price so we can enjoy what we have today. Many old men like the one in this story wrote a blank check payable to “The United States of America” for an amount of “up to and including my life.” That is HONOR, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.