I ride the bus almost every morning to work. Therefore, before I ever arrive at HG Logistics LLC, a third party logistics company located in Cincinnati, Ohio, I cross paths with some interesting people. My journey to work begins with a mile walk to the bus stop, and on that walk, I take whatever shortcuts I can find. One of those shortcuts is through McDonald’s parking lot where every morning sits an older gentleman in his car drinking his coffee. He wants me to stop and talk to him. Some mornings I do not mind, but other times I am thinking…”I don’t have time. I am in a hurry. I am going to miss my bus.” Regardless of what I am thinking, I am always compelled to stop and mingle for a few minutes. When I first met this gentleman, my first impression was that he was a dirty old man wanting to flirt with younger women. He often offered me rides to the bus stop, but I never took him up on his offer. However, over time as I got to know this gentleman, I realized my first impression was far from correct.
This gentleman is just a lonely man looking for someone to talk to and the topic he likes to share the most is his old war stories. As a young man in his late teens, early twenties, he fought in the Korean War. I do not know about you, but personally, I do not know much about the Korean War. I have heard a lot about Vietnam and World War II but not the Korean War. During the winter months when I was complaining about the cold and the few inches of snow, he would tell me stories of how the temperature often dropped to 35 degrees below zero in Korea. As soldiers, they had to be very resilient to withstand such conditions. He also tells me stories of his recent trips to VA Hospital where he is being treated regularly for a form of leukemia. He says with each visit, he sees hundreds of veteran suffering from all kinds of ailments many of them caused by Agent Orange. I can tell his heart really goes out to these fellow soldiers.
Sadly, I have to admit that at one time I considered this gentleman an interruption to my busy schedule, but today I can say I truly appreciate his life’s experiences that he has shared with me. He has taught me to appreciate what I, for so long, have taken for granted.
Next week we celebrate the 4th of July, and there is no better time than now for us to reflect on what our independence truly means. Our independence came with a cost, and that cost often equates to lost lives. Our founding fathers and their loyal followers fought for our independence and today, soldiers are still making sacrifices to protect that freedom.
So next week on the 4th of July in between all the activities and the picnic lunches and the fireworks displays take a few moments to thank a soldier. I know of one veteran sitting in McDonald’s parking lot that I need to thank. Never again will I consider him an interruption. Instead, I see him as one of the many heroes that have helped preserve my freedom.
Thank you soldiers and veterans for all your sacrifices!