Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Memorable cab ride: follow up to my thank you

I jumped in the cab this morning to head over to a client space (a 10 minute cab ride at most). My driver was an older gentleman wearing a black hat. I could see what I thought were two W’s on his hat, so I asked “is that a WWII hat?” and it was indeed. I thanked him for his service and sacrifice. He downplayed the war and told me “it’s been such a long time since the war, there is really no need for ‘Thank you’ now a days”. That made me feel stupid for a split second and then I thought to myself “Whatever old man!! It’s never too late!” I told him that it was never to late to thank someone for defending our freedom or coming to the aid of those under the oppression of a dictator.

He told me he was in the 4th Infantry under Patton. He came in through Italy and they eventually made there way up to Bastogne. He talked about how he was drafted into the war; otherwise he doesn’t know if he would ever have volunteered to go. He also said the most memorable advice he got was from his 1st Lt. right during training…the Lt. told him to NEVER volunteer for anything in the Army…Interesting (insert scratching forehead emoticon here).

The more he talked, the more I realized that he was indeed moved by my asking him questions. I (briefly…I wanted to hear his stories) told him about the Honor flight and how it had impacted me and “moved” me. Mr. Wilson started to tell me about the most memorable event (and “moving”) for him…he stopped talking for a few seconds and that is when I realized he was getting choked up…so of course I start crying in the back (good thing I’m not wearing make-up these days!)…He said upon docking the ship in NY harbor, there was a massive American flag, the size of an entire building, and a huge sign that said (and it took him a lot of effort to get these words out) “WELCOME HOME! JOB WELL DONE”… He said he still has a vivid image of that scene as if he were there. I find it absolutely amazing! Such a simple phrase can still penetrate straight to the soul of this (84 year old; yes, I asked) man and result in such an emotional moment for both of us.

We continued to talk. He said that there are very few WWII veterans still alive, and a large portion of those men have never seen the memorial. At the end of the ride he said he didn’t understand why it took America over 60 years to build a memorial to the soldiers of WWII…he named off many of the memorials that were built before the WWII (thus why he tried to minimalism my ‘Thank you’ in the beginning of the cab ride) In his words “for a while many veterans felt as if what we did was of no importance to America…or that everyone forgot”. I told him his sacrifices are not forgotten! “Your sacrifices give us the freedom today to be as ignorant and flippant with the freedom we do enjoy”…I know! I'm so cheesy these days!

So as I got out of the cab, he told me Thank you for talking to him and then pointed out that he did not reciprocate the “age question”…then he winked and smiled as he drove off! What a cute old man(sorry I didn't take a picture!)

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