"Hey man, run by table 18." My friend Travis said to me.
"What is it?" I asked, "a hot chick?"
Which is usually the case, male waiters are particularly lecherous about exposed thongs, cleavage and the such.
Travis shook his head and smiled.
"Just go," he said.
Upon noticing table 18 I saw the people sitting there.
They were in their mid seventies but the man they were surrounding was far senior to them, at least twenty years senior. As he sat there enjoying his lunch they stared at him with the same awe that I had. He had a simple blue ribbon tied around his neck with a star pendant and eagle, with a simple word printed on the crest...
He was an awardee of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
It has been nearly 65 years since the war he was in was over, the men of that era are nearly all gone, and the Medal "winners" from World War II must be down to a mere handful.
It is an award any would gladly give back to have their friends, their bothers with us today.
Travis and I were students of history once, before our own lives took a different turn then we had planned, so instantly we knew what his medal signified. Only 3500 of the tens of millions of United States Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen have displayed the sacrifice, courage, honor and valor to be awarded this medal, a large majority of which have been posthumously.
As Travis and I were speaking of what we thought about the man one of the waitresses came over and asked what the big deal was.
So we told her about the medal and what is signified, what he had done.
She just didn't understand, didn't see the big picture, what men like that did to give us our freedom, she didn't see what the big deal was.
The freedom to bitch and moan online, the freedom to go to whatever church, whatever school, whatever job.
To raise your children how you want them to be.
To not be a slave.
To go to college.
Or to not.
Even the freedom to hate your own country.
Or hate the president.
Or to love him.
That's the big deal.
All because some twenty year old kid and his brothers spent the Christmas of 1776 charging through a blinding snowstorm at Trenton with something far more dangerous in the air about them than ice...
Because a fifteen year old boy froze to death in the icy hell of the trenches at Petersburg.
Because a Sergeant with a hell of a shot captured an entire company of the Kaiser's soldiers, by himself.
Or because that man eating his soup at table 18 fought off a platoon of Germans by himself as his friends lay dying around him, or he held a bridge when others couldn't, or maybe just a streetcorner, or he pulled his brothers to safety when others ran away.
Or a thousand thing on a thousand battlefields.
He is all of those men, he did all of those things.
That's the big deal.
A bit later on I saw Travis approach the man and say a few short words.
"What did you talk about?" I asked.
"I simply thanked him," Travis said.
So do I, So do I...
I wish I had shaken his hand.
But this the closest thing I can do, thank you, and thank all of the others for what we have.
Here is a site that details the stories of these men, most of them will shake you to the bone.
And most of them end with "mortally wounded"
"Killed in action"
Or the word "Sacrifice"
Something most of us have lost or only heard whispers of.
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility" - Henry V
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day." - Henry V, Shakespeare