I arrived at the local Applebee’s restaurant in my neighborhood around 7:30 p.m. My wife had to attend to some business at the church tonight. She gave me the ‘thumbs up’ to go and partake of my free meal the restaurant was offering to all veteran’s. In the past, I would take advantage of some of the free promotions being offered to veterans. This year, I thought I would at least try to participate. I got my car washed for free and tonight I was looking forward to my Veteran’s Day meal here at Applebee’s.
I could tell tonight the word was out. The restaurant was packed out. I was greeted at the front door by a group of young people from the local high school who were dressed up in their ROTC uniforms. “Evening sir, Happy Veteran’s Day and welcome to Applebee’s. Thank you for your service.” How nice I thought. Over the years, the outpouring of support from society is pretty impressive.
The hostess took my name and I took my place in the sitting area to wait for my table. It was then that I heard the hostess call my name and also the name of another person. The other person was this other guy, who also was by himself. The hostess turned to the both of us and said, “you two are by yourself, would you like to sit with one another?” The gentleman looked back at me with a reassuring look that indicated that he wanted the company. “I don’t mind” was his reply. To be honest, I wanted to eat by myself. I am around people all day, so I welcome the solitude of being by myself whenever I can get the chance. I didn’t want this man to insult this man, but I was put on the spot. I had no choice but to accept the invitation to dine with him.
Let’s just call my new friend Jim. For two hours I sat with Jim as he told me about his journey from childhood to his 3-year enlistment in the Navy and to his 16-year career as a Charlotte firefighter. He shared how he lost his job and for a brief moment became homeless having to live with his brother’s family. I opened up as well, sharing my life about my military career and family. I was so amazed how comfortable we became with one another after just having met a few hours ago. This moment has proved to me once again that I belong to this special group. We are called a ‘band of brothers’. It doesn’t matter that our years or service or our ages are different. We are bound by the same ‘rite of passage’ that every soldier, sailor, marine and airmen has taken. On our way out, we both were able to shake the hands of other veterans who were coming in the door. I enjoyed myself tonight. It was worth it and it reminded me that I belonged to something greater than myself.
by Sgt. Roy Lewis
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