Yesterday I was doing some grocery shopping. Kids were complaining of a decided lack of sustenance in the pantry, mainly junkfood. I was complaining of a decided laziness in their bones that prevented them from actually cooking what was available. But I was running very low on coffee and creamer and decided my needs outweighed my crankiness, so off I went to Walmart. Why there? because I didn’t feel like putting on make-up, ok??
Anyway, I got some general school supplies, some new anti-wrinkle cream, just random crap. Eventually I make it to the coffee aisle, whereupon I begin to make my selections: Donut House coffee and some hazelnut cappuccino for Eldest. Standing in front of the vast selection of K-cup coffee is an older couple, looking a bit dazed and confused. Having been in a similar circumstance when I first got my Keurig™, I decided to offer any help in picking out coffee. I’m not a connoisseur by any means, but I figured I knew a bit more than they did. I asked them if they needed any help, and the gentleman turned to me to thank me and asked me for advice.
That’s when I noticed his cap. He was a Marine, and had served in WWII and Korea. He was a little stooped, but when I asked him about his service he stood a little more straight as he spoke of his time in the Marines. He never spoke of the gore and the violence, though. He talked about the field, and his friends, and how even now he sometimes put coffee grinds between his gum and cheek so he wouldn’t wake his wife by using the coffeemaker. He talked about how the only fights he had were over who got the first cup of joe before patrol (first one done, was first one out on patrol). Coffee, he said, kept him sane and kept his world going. As I shook his hand to wish him well, he noticed my Aggie ring. He asked what class I was, and then proceeded to tell me of the Aggies he knew from his time in service: the Aggie who rescued cattle at the expense of a truck’s tires; the Aggie who made pigeon stew; the Aggie who sang before battle. He told me that every Aggie he knew was made from something he could never define, but that was easily recognizable. I told him I felt the same way about my Marine friends. He laughed and told me I was probably right. As I thanked him for his service, he asked me to thank my husband for his. When I asked him how he knew my husband was in the service, he pointed to my purse: Hubby’s Purple Heart, which I always carry with me, was sticking out. I laughed and thanked them both for a lovely time spent in the coffee aisle. They waved and wished me a good day.
In truth the medal could have been my dad’s or my brother’s or mine. But he is a gentleman of another era who learned that only men go into combat. His memories will soon leave us without record but that of what he chooses to leave behind. In that moment, I felt very small. I had been in the presence of greatness by virtue of history. I pray his story is told for a long time, and that children learn good things from it, like the reason those men fought over a cup of coffee.