He was a veteran.
Dressed in Army fatigues from head to toe, from his beret to his boots, he walked slowly to his car. The cane helped, but he still walked with a limp. I was nervous as I approached him; I didn’t know him, but we could see he had a story to tell. Whether or not he wanted to share it, we weren’t sure, but I ran after him to find out.
He was alone.
Sometimes you just see it in someone, that he has much going on in his heart and mind. But we don’t know what it is until we ask. Sometimes they want to share; but what if he didn’t? As he walked away from the display of 1,000 flags, he was deep in thought and reflection. Part of me didn’t want to intrude, but another part wanted to honor him by asking about his story. And by saying thank you.
He was quiet.
I caught him just as he started his car. I told him my family had seen him and we were wondering about him…we wanted to know his story. He turned off his car and my nerves calmed. He seemed glad to talk and he quietly told me about his time in Iraq, about the firefight in the Humvee, and about the rocket-propelled grenade that left his spine riddled with shrapnel.
He was sad.
The sadness was visible in everything about him – his demeanor, his soft voice, his eyes. “I’m here to remember my brothers that were lost,” he said. Attending memorials and local patriotic events is his way to honor his comrades. And he was sad because he felt his friends had lost their lives “for nothing,” because the removal of troops in the region has undone their work and their sacrifice, he said.
He is a hero.
Sunglasses hid my wet eyes while I shook Mr. Silva’s hand and thanked him for his own sacrifice and for serving our country. He, and everyone who has donned a uniform, is a hero in my opinion. I was thankful that we had seen him and that I’d been nudged to “go talk to him.”
I will never forget that short conversation and it will help me remember that it’s ok to ask: “What’s your story?” And it’s important to say THANK YOU.