Monday, October 3, 2011
Today was payday. Payday’s require breakfast out, maybe even dinner. In small towns, you normally have limited choices for a meal out on Mondays. Generally “Bubba” keeps the café closed on Monday and Tuesdays, depending on whether the fish are biting. We are lucky in this small town because we have a Denny’s. We’ve made some sort impression with the wait staff, as soon as we hit the lobby, at least two servers at any given hour of the day jump to our side and seat us right away.
I paid little attention as I held the door open for three older gentlemen that hit the doors just a half a step ahead of my wife and me. One of our favorite servers Stephanie seated us, while the manager seated the three older gents a few tables away on our right. My build it yourself Slam was neither good nor bad, just easy. Biscuit and gravy, sausage links, scrambled eggs, iced tea. Gayle, my wonderful wife enjoyed her Slam breakfast fare. She added hash browns.
From where I was seated I looked directly at two of the gentlemen. The other’s back being to me. One man’s black ball cap was emblazoned with Viet Nam Veteran, with several small insignias and pins. The other man had his head turned slightly. I could only make out a large silver S on his black ball cap. At least to me, two obvious Vets. We ate. They ate. We talked. They talked. Eventually, the man with the silver S, turned his head enough and I read what was embroidered in silver thread, Silver Star.
I mentioned to Gayle that I wanted to pay for their breakfast. She said she had always wanted to buy a Vet breakfast. I said here is your chance to buy three heros a breakfast. However, they were finishing before we were, I added they might leave before we got a chance to grab the ticket. She jumped from her seat and away from her breakfast, and walked over to their table where the ticket laid in front of all three men. I watched as she snatched it away from them. They protested loudly. Gayle stood her ground. She informed them in no uncertain terms that we were buying them breakfast as a very small thank you for their service.
I gobbled up what I could choke down before I started crying. She handed me their ticket, I took our ticket and bolted for the register. My tears building up. I paid for both meals, and was about to make a clean getaway with a tear heading south. Gayle was wiping her eyes. Suddenly two of the three Vets were upon us, still protesting for paying for their breakfast.
One man reached out and said, “You should at least have a souvenir for your money.” He handed me a custom business card. The other Vet handed me an identical card. The third man was in the restroom.
We all exchanged one last round of thank you’s. I barely made it to my driver’s seat of the truck before I totally lost it. I was moved - greatly.
To sit in the company of greatness, selflessness is amazing. Yes, they were wearing their Vet regalia, yes three of them were wounded in combat. One was even a POW. But I feel like I had breakfast with four heros. Joe “China Boy” Lopez, Sr., Pablo J. Sanchez, the third man I did not get a name or a business card and my all time hero; Gayle M. Turpin, my wife.
I know sometimes it seems impossible to come up with change from the sofa to pay for a damn taco, but sometime in the future I hope everyone pays for a Vet’s meal, and enjoy a meal with your own hero.