Tuesday was an especially good day, as far as Veterans Days go, for Joe, nearly 85 years old and one of my retired pals at the mall food court.
Again, as he does for one or two days a year, usually on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Joe Horvath was wearing his ball cap with the big letters spelling out PURPLE HEART on the crown.
The actual medal, earned in World War II combat in Italy, is kept in a safe place at his home.
I have written at length before about Joe, and this blog is not about him, rather it is about a few folks who are unashamed to let these brave military veterans know how much their service was appreciated.
Oh, I don t mean in big, extravagant ways like parades and public proclamations, but in smaller ways that are often unexpected, yet show the veterans a measure of someone s regard for them.
In this case, I don t even have the names of the two seniors I am writing about.
Neither does Joe.
You see, on the evening of Veterans Day, Joe was dining alone at the Elbo Room on Alexis Road. He goes there occasionally and is usually by himself since his wife died a couple of years ago. It was one of her favorite eateries.
Seated at a table nearby were two seniors, engaged in conversation. Joe didn t know who they were, nor was there any communication between Joe and the couple.
Joe, however, was certainly noticed by the pair.
When he finished his small pizza, he went to the cashier to pay for his meal and pulled out his wallet.
He was informed that the unknown couple, who had already departed, had taken care of his dinner tab and that he needn t pay a penny.
He asked why the two strangers had done that. The cashier pointed out that they had seen Joe s hat.
Joe, still flabbergasted, shared this experience over lunch at the mall the next day.
He genuinely appreciated the couple s gesture, but was sorely disappointed that he didn t know who they were or what they were doing at the time so he could thank them.
With a few words to pass on to Joe, my wife reminded me of the true spirit of Veterans Day so I could enlighten him the next day:
He didn t have to thank them. They were thanking him.
Earlier that day, the Chik-Fil-A in the mall food court was doing its part to let the veterans know how much they are appreciated.
With no fanfare but just a sign posted above the counter, Chik-Fil-A invited military veterans to step up and receive a free chicken sandwich on Veterans Day.
Joe hadn t even noticed the sign when he got to the counter to buy a soft drink. One of the employees, noticing the ball cap, asked him if he wanted his sandwich. Joe nodded. He later said that sandwich tasted particularly good.
Mike, who runs the Chik-Fil-A there, reported a total of 61 sandwiches given away Tuesday to military veterans.
By the way, no proof of military service was required to get a sandwich, just a statement by the recipient that he had been in the service.
Like the couple s actions at the Elbo Room, it was a gracious gesture by folks who also know how to say Thank You.