Blank Check

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying regarding veterans. The one about writing a blank check payable to the United States of America up to and including your life.

When you decide to join the military, especially during wartime, you are basically saying that you are willing to die for your country. It doesn’t matter if you are joining to be a cook or if you are joining to be a sniper. It is just something you understand is a possibility when you make this decision. I previously mentioned that during my years in the Marine Corps there were no major conflicts. The Iraq war did start at the end of my time, but I had spent so much time away from my original trade that I was no longer of use without any additional training in that field. I remember once when a fellow MSG (Marine Security Guard) at my post in Bamako got mad and stormed out of a meeting when he felt that I had received two “unearned” combat leave days after spending a week in Skopje, Macedonia. I had gone there to support the State Department in guarding then Secretary Of State Colin Powell and his wife while they were there for peace talks during the Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia.

 SecState

(I’m 3rd from the left in black suit and white top, and the only chick but the picture is tiny and blurry)

I felt like such a badass back then. I really did.

People join the military for many reasons. Some join because they want to go out and shoot all the “bad guys”(me), some because it seems like a pretty good career where you can retire early and still live a pretty full non-military life, some join for the college money, and some because they need a way to financially provide for their families while making sure they have adequate health insurance. We all go into it for different reasons and we all go into it knowing that we could potentially be giving the ultimate sacrifice at any given time.

My person of the week is the lady sitting behind her cubicle wall with a broken smile.

It’s amazing that after almost 11 years at war we’ve become so numb as a nation. I remember even a short while ago, if a local soldier died, it would be all over the news for days (maybe even weeks). Every angle and moment of that person’s life would be mentioned. Their family would receive a flooding of support, cards, flowers… We didn’t simply look at it as another quick news blurb and move on.

The woman was sitting at her desk and greeted me with a broken smile. She didn’t say anything. As I continued to work around her, another employee approached her and greeted her with a hug. I couldn’t hear what they were discussing at first but at some point I heard the lady mention that she had the opportunity to go through “his” belongings and ran across “his” bullet ridden uniform. I froze. I later found out that this woman had recently lost her son, an Army Sergeant and Green Beret, in Afghanistan. I almost couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even heard about this incident involving a local soldier. Even after doing some searches on the internet and local news channel websites, it left me with almost as much information as what I started with. You can see that for yourself here.

The woman greeted me with a broken smile and a broken heart. She was trying her best to start living her life again. It reminded me once again that you truly never know what someone you encounter may be facing and that we should always, always try to spread as much kindness and love as possible. One could easily misconstrue someone’s lack of eye contact and little words when we’re caught on a bad Monday morning, running low on coffee. We should always treat everyone we run across with grace, because we never know who may need you to mend their broken smile with a little bit of joy.

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