August 21, 2010

All I was looking for was a new chair...

Things sometimes happen that realize results that were not at all what was intended. The wife and I were on a shopping excursion to furniture stores trying to locate that perfect chair that would look fantastic and at the same time provide my aging back some much needed support. For some reason, known only to seniors, I avail myself more often now to the position named after some vegetable and linked to a couch, a couch potato is it? Oh well, so be it. I digress anyway. The story picks up in the furniture store where we located that perfect chair. While making arrangements for delivery I made my only contribution to the ladies handling the minutia involved in getting the chair from their warehouse to my living room. I asked, "was delivery included in the price?" Not to my surprise the answer was no, that would be an extra 79 dollars, she said sadly, unless, and this caught me by surprise again, unless I was a veteran. I hesitated and stumbled, no one had asked me that for over a half century. After the two sets of eyeballs kept staring at me I realized that, yes, of course I was a veteran. I made some awfully funny comeback, like sure I was a veteran, of the Spanish American war. But darn she was serious, and she and the wife didn't think my joke was funny anyway. Of course it wasn't, most of my jokes aren't.

It seems they were running a campaign that would drop the delivery costs if you were a veteran. I must tell you I was more than a little uncertain to avail myself of the deal, but my wife said I was a veteran, even though I knew they were talking about the Gulf War in which our second son served twice, it felt a little wrong even though I was by this time being given the "thank you for your service". I left feeling more than a little like a thief but happy for the 80 bucks I saved for delivery.

As this piece illustrates, I have since thought about the encounter over and over again. It is not that I said anything untruthful or my service was less than honorable. The deep dark reason I feel a little less deserving is because my service time of four years fell three years after the end of the American occupation of Japan in 1952, and about two years after the end of hostilities in Korea. My four years in the service fell neatly between any skirmishes that were ending and before any new problems that could have put me in harm's way. I never had a bullet fired at me in anger, a fact I am most grateful for, but compared to the brave young men that have chosen to serve in recent history, a little short on valor, and to those young men and women I too salute them.

So there you have it. The service, my choice was the Air Force, gave me so much more than I gave it. It gave me a chance to see portions of the world that I would not have seen otherwise, including New York, Wyoming, California, Wake Island, Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. where I worked, among other places, the Pentagon. It taught me a trade that led me into a career in computers.

Plus the one ongoing behavior change that I am beholding to forever; I learned that someone besides my mother could make food that I might like, (remember I was 18 years old when I went into the military). I was in the chow line during tech school one morning, and one rule, you did not ask questions of the food servers. You just stuck your tray out and it came back with something on it. This morning it came back with two pieces of toast plastered with something spread on them. I asked the fellow GI with me, "what is that?" He replied to me, "It's creamed hamburger, better known as s--t on a shingle. I absolutely loved it, still do. I was on my way to more gourmet adventures on Uncle Sam's dollar.

My two son's followed me into the military. My elder son went into the Air Force, and gave the country nine years of exempleary service. My younger son decided that the Army was for him, and he gave the country twenty years of service in harm's way. Among the beautiful spots he served were Iraq (twice), and any other place under fire that Uncle Sam decided to invest our human resources. They did well.

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