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Just One

Story ID:6529
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA
Year:2010
Person:Veterans
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One of my readers related to me a story that touched me. I asked for her permission to write this.

Just One


They sat in a booth in the local Cracker Barrel restaurant. She stared at her
handsome husband. Heavier than the days of his youth, a little less hair, but still a
handsome man – her man. Her love. On his head he wore his “Vietnam Vet and Proud of
It” hat. It was his right to wear it on this day November 11, 2010 – Veteran’s Day.

He seemed distant. She reached out and took his hand. “What’s the matter, Hun?”

He looked around the room. A group of young men, late teens or early twenties,
laughed and joked among themselves. Other people sat, ate in silence or talked softly.
He sighed and looked at her. His pain was obvious in his glistening eyes. “They don’t
care.” he whispered. “They don’t care.”

She squeezed his hand. “They’re young. They don’t know what you went
through.” She knew the stories and what he faced during three voluntary tours in
Vietnam as a Green Beret – Special Forces. His back still troubles him forty years
after the explosion that nearly took his life. Agent Orange, the deadly poison used to clear
the jungles, has caused its problems for him too: a brain tumor, heart troubles, skin lesions
and lung operations. Agent Orange – the poison that keeps on giving.

She didn’t know it all. He didn’t talk too much about the horrors he witnessed. It
was too painful. The week before, their church held a free pancake breakfast for veterans.
The veterans were asked if they would stand, say what branch they served and speak a
few words about their experiences. Her husband was the only one with combat
experience. He stood before the congregation and froze. The words didn’t come.

“Why is he just standing there?” A friend of theirs asked her son. “I don’t
understand.”

Her son looked at her. “Mom, it’s because of his lost friends and the situations
he’s been in.”

He understood when many didn’t.

She felt her own tears well. “I care.” she said to her loving husband. “I care and I
love you for the twenty one years you served our country.”

He smiled at her. “Thank you, honey. It means a lot to me.”

The young men at the table near them stood noisily. They left a tip on the table
and prepared to leave. As they walked away, one paused, turned, and walked to where
she sat with her proud husband. The young man stood before them and stuck out his
hand. “Sir, I want to thank you for your service.”

Her husband rose from his chair, stood straight, a reminder of the young man he
once was, and shook the offered hand, “Thank you, son! That means a lot to me and
others who fought the fight and those fighting today, including my son who serves in the
army.”

“You’re welcome, sir. Please thank your son for me.” The young man turned and
left the room.

Her husband sat down. His gloom transformed into a glow. He smiled. “Someone
does care.”

She beamed at him, glad someone noticed and said something; even it was “Just
One”. Out of a room full of people, just one took a minute to thank her husband.

She looked up and saw a World War Two vet leaving the restaurant. She jumped
to her feet. “I’ll be right back.”

She rushed out after the gentleman. “Excuse me, Sir.”

He turned. “Yes, Ma’am? Did I forget my wallet again?”

“No sir. I just wanted to thank you for your service.”

He straightened his aging body, “Thank you, ma’am. You’re the first today to say
that.” She was his ‘Just One’. He continued. “I volunteered you know.”

“So did my husband and his son as well.”

“Thank them for me, Ma’am.”

They parted. She returned to her husband smiling and thinking wouldn’t it be
wonderful if more people took a moment to say thank you to a veteran and be their “Just
One” for that day.

Just one!

Michael T. Smith