I Paid It Forward For A US Soldier

I Paid For A Meal For A Man In Uniform And Here's What Happened

Here's how a small act of gratitude to appreciate a life-risking sacrifice turned into a life-changing lesson.

mchalpin
mchalpin
175
views

On one of these occasions, I was eating at Chipotle with two of my friends, and I didn't even think twice about getting up from eating with them to go pay for the man in line with an army uniform on. When he reached the cashier, I told the cashier that I was going to pay for his meal. He turned to me, mouth open, and asked me why. After paying, I told him that my friends and I were about to go to a football game and that without him dedicating his life to keeping our country safe and to protecting our freedom, we wouldn't be able to go the game. We wouldn't be able to live our lives the way we do without serious fear of our safety.

Noticing the wedding ring on his finger, I continued and told him that I wanted to pay for his meal as an extremely small "thank you" to his wife and family's sacrifice to the country as well. He looked at me with the biggest smile on his face as he said, "Well thank you for saying 'thank you'! I love my job because I get to protect Americans like you and your friends. It makes it all worth it. I really do love this country."

Finding his large smile contagious, I felt the biggest smile coming on as I said, "I love this country too," and with that, I never would have guessed what would happen next. He said, "Hang on just one sec, but let's move to the side to let the rest of the line pay for their dinners."

We moved just to the side of the cashier as he looked down at the American flag patch on the arm of his uniform. "I haven't ever done this, but I want to do this…" He took the patch off of the Velcro patch of his uniform and handed it to me. As tears started forming in my eyes, I looked at him without being able to form words. Smiling again, he asked, "Do you know why the flag is backward?" I managed to say "No," as he told me that the reason that the flag is back so that the stars are closer to the heart of the soldier.

He patted me on the shoulder and said that he would keep my friends and I close to his heart as he continued to serve our country, and left the restaurant before I could even say goodbye.

This interaction not only renewed my appreciation for the military, but it also taught me a completely new lesson about the impact we can have on others. This man has risked his life for people he has never met, and yet he still took the time to brighten my day.

What would that look like for us if we chose to live like this? If we devoted our whole lives to others and to brightening instead of darkening their lives?

I personally think we'd all be finding contagious smiles and realizing that, despite everything, we love our country too.

Popular Right Now

An Open Letter To Those Who Forget Those Who Fought For Us All

We would not have the freedom to create what we love without them.

264
views

Without the bravery of millions of men and women throughout US history, many of us would not be sitting at our laptops reading or even creating free expressions of ourselves.

We might not be able to walk across campus without fear for our lives. Without the sacrifice of those who served, the great country we call home would not even be a reality. Whether we know them personally or not, the American people owe every ounce of freedom that we enjoy to the veterans who fought to preserve it.

For the soldiers who made it home again, the physical war was over, but the mental war was just beginning. And what makes it worse is that they cannot identify the enemy. There is no battle plan, no intended mission, and no officer leading them through the fray; they are alone, and cannot find the enemy to face in the shadows.

Veterans come home with so many different battle scars; some as obvious as a missing limb, and others so invisible that no one realizes that they are there until it is too late. Mental illness and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) plague returning soldiers and make it almost impossible for them to assimilate back into their own families, let alone society.

There is a toxic mentality that is all too popular in the military that tries to say that PTSD is for the weak and feeble-minded. Sometimes serving for years in foreign lands, some soldiers claim that any form of weakness gets you killed or captured on the battlefield. Coming home with this same mentality creates a toxic environment in which veterans refuse to seek help and the nightmares that they endured overseas haunt them until they cannot take it anymore.

There were soldiers that did not make it home at all, and some that were carried off planes in a box draped in the flag of their beloved country. Many of those who died did so to give their friends the chance to see the home and the families that they themselves would never lay eyes on again. They did not die just for their friends to come home to sleep on benches, having been kicked out of their houses or unable to hold a job. They did not die for their friends to come home only to put a needle to their arm, a bottle to their lips, or a pistol to their head.

Every day, 22 veterans and active-duty soldiers commit suicide. That means approximately every 65 minutes, a veteran has taken his or her life somewhere in the United States, the country that forgot them after they gave up so much for it. This statistic is inexcusable for our nation, and in other areas, the bar is just as low.

The vets with physical wounds alongside their mental ones who seek help must yet again face another battle; this time being with the healthcare system and all of its heavy expenses.

They usually get bags of over-prescribed drugs thrown at them as well as opioids rather than the physical and mental therapy that they need and deserve. The drugs turn the veterans into addicts, and as the pain continues to intensify on both the physical and mental fronts, they take more and more to numb the pain. This way, many reach overdose, and even death.

Mental illness, PTSD, lack of adequate treatment, and physical impairment all make it practically impossible for a soldier to get and keep a job, which could start a downward spiral into homelessness.

Despite the efforts that government organizations such as the Veterans Affairs have set in motion, the programs implemented have had minimal effect upon the crisis at hand. With a broken system and so many odds stacked against them, so many veterans have lost faith in the country that they fought so hard for, the same country that left them to their own nightmares in the alleyways and dark corners of cities. This is a humanitarian crisis that defines who we are as a nation.

I understand that many people may call a different crisis to mind that they think should take priority over getting these heroes off the streets. However, without all the sacrifices that the millions who served have made to protect America and everything it stands for, most other issues in this country would not even be plausible, let alone resolvable. This country is a beacon of hope to the world, and so many risks their own lives as well as their children's to come here. But without those who protected our liberty, there would be no liberty to flock to.

I want to imagine a United States that successfully integrates veterans back into society, that has the programs and the willpower to get them back on their feet and out of the shadows of the horrors they faced overseas.

But more than that, I want to imagine an American people that turn around to help pay the debt that those who fought for our freedom never asked us to repay. Because after all, freedom isn't free.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

37 War Movies You Should Watch This Memorial Day

War movies are a great way to relive history or celebrate our armed forces.

22
views

I'm a war movie buff. I've seen most if not all the movies on this list ranging from old classics to modern box office hits. Some of these are hilarious and some are very serious and possibly disturbing. For this list, only true American Movies were picked because this Holiday is about remembering American Soldiers and Veterans.

1. Black Hawk Down

2. American Sniper

3. Kelly’s Heroes

4. Thin Red Line

5. Lone Survivor 

6. Fury

7. Casualties of War

8. Courage Under Fire

9. Catch 22

10. The Longest Day

11. Born on the Fourth of July

12. Good Morning, Vietnam

13. Platoon

14. The Dirty Dozen

15. Twelve O’clock High

16. Saving Private Ryan

17. The Messenger

18. The Deer Hunter

19. Top Gun

20. Full Metal Jacket

21. Zero Dark Thirty

22. Saints and Soldiers

23. Thank You For Your Service

24. A Few Good Men

25. Hurt Locker

26. We Were Soldiers

27. Men Of Honor

28. Tora!Tora!Tora!

29. Heartbreak Ridge

30. Sand Castle

31. Apocalypse Now

32. Flags of Our Fathers

33. Pearl Harbor

34. Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Crees

35. JarHead

36. Taking Chance

37. Platoon

Bonus TV Miniseries 1. Band of Brothers

Bonus TV Miniseries 2. The Pacific

Bonus TV Miniseries 3. Generation Kill

Have a Happy Memorial Day with friends and family and eat a burger for me and enjoy the good times and reflect on why this holiday is and maybe enjoy a movie or two or a few.

Related Content

Facebook Comments