I was in line at the grocery store and was bored. No one was chatting me up online at that moment so I was looking for some amusement. It was late afternoon, still too early for the fashion parade of tube tops being worn as mini skirts or unitards with four inch heels. Screaming, snotty nosed baby to the left. On my right, awkward teenaged couple doing the whole mauling each other, arms around each other, hand holding, hands in each other’s back pockets…whatever….gross.
In line ahead of me was an older man wearing a red T-shirt. The back of it catches my very patriotic eyes. The crest of the United States Marine Corps. Yeah, baby! I mean Ooh Rah!! He turned around and I saw a tanned, weathered face that bore the marks of some hidden story. We made eye contact and I said,”Sir, are you a Marine?” He smiled but looked away and said,”I used to be. I mean I guess I still am. Aren’t I?” I said,”You sure are. May I shake your hand?” He extended his hand and I took it. A chill came over me. I love meeting real heroes. LOVE IT. In my book, if you wear that uniform, and leave all that is precious to you, to go fight evil or are just willing to go to preserve freedoms for people you don’t know and for some who won’t even appreciate you…HERO. I knew what was coming and I only felt it fair to warn this unsuspecting soul. “I’m just going to have to hug you now, Marine. You’ve been warned. I’m coming in!” And with that, I proceeded to hug the snot right outta that man! Right there in the check out line. I thought he would just sort of stand there, arms limp at his sides, letting me have my Hallmark moment…”ok little lady, enough with the crazy”… but you know what? That Jarhead (He said I could call him that!) hugged me right back. He whispered, “Thanks, girlie.” Got his bags, and left. I’m sure it would enhance my Hallmark moment if I told you he was wiping tears as he walked away, but no. That didn’t happen, darn it! However, he did walk out looking mighty straight and tall. Wish I had gotten his name, that ‘ol devil dog. (Yes, he said I could call him that, too!)
So what about this meeting has caused mild, even tempered moi (I couldn’t even type that with a straight face!) to be so upset?! The fact that this Marine wasn’t sure if he was still a Marine! I know there can be all kinds of scenarios here, situations of which I am totally unaware. But for some reason, this man, who has donned a military uniform and served his country, doubts he still belongs! AAAHHH! That makes my heart hurt! Has he lost touch with his Marine Corps family? Are they all gone? Has his family not encouraged him to keep in touch with his Marine Corps family? He obviously feels proud of his Marine Corps because he was wearing that shirt. This is driving me nuts! And yes, short trip. I know. But stay with me, people! Think about it. Consider all this man went through just to bear the name United States Marine! Then he served this great nation! When you put on that uniform, you’re saying “I am willing to lay down my life to protect my country.” He did that. Whatever form his service took, he did that. He gave himself. And he doesn’t know if he’s still a Marine? Gut wrenching. So painful. I just can’t stand it. Oh God, please PLEASE let him know.
My family is a lot of things. To protect the innocent, I won’t tell you most of it. Haha! But I will say, we are very patriotic. We love our country and those who serve in our Armed Forces. My grandfather was in the Army. My cousin’s two sons are Marines. I have many close friends in the armed forces. My older son is in junior high school and already knows he wants a career as a United States Marine. When I see him in uniform for the first time, I don’t know if I will be able to handle the pride that is sure to well up inside my mother-heart. Someone get Mama a tissue!
I hope I always remember this encounter. Tomorrow I will take my children to church and we will not have to sneak there for fear of being beaten or arrested. It’s because of our freedom of religion that was fought for by brave men like this one, paid for by the blood of those no longer with us. Yes, you are still a Marine. Yes! Thank you a million times over.
Semper Fi, dear Sir. Semper Fi.