Posted 26 March 2011 - 09:11 AM
I woke up this morning and decided to go get some donuts for the family for breakfast, something I'm doing with far too much regularity these days. As I was standing there waiting for my order to be filled, a fragile looking, elderly gentleman came in. The cashier greeted him by name, and he responded by greeting her by hers. He walked over, fixed his own cup of coffee, and went to sit at what I can assume is his regular table with the gentleman he came in with. So I paid for my order, and headed towards the exit, but as I passed him I saw he was wearing a Marine cap and jacket. I stopped and asked him if he served. He said he did, of course. I told him I was a former Marine as well. He smiled a big smile, and shook my hand. I then noticed a patch on his cap that had only two words on it: "Iwo Jima". I asked him, "did you serve on Iwo Jima?" "Yes, sir", he responded, calling me 'sir' like I warrant that from a man of his experience and years. He said, "can you believe that was 66 years ago?" I asked him how old he was when he was on the island. He told me he was 17 when he went in, and 18 when he was on Iwo Jima. I told him I couldn't imagine the hell he had been through. I asked him how long he was on Iwo. "Six weeks", he said. All I could do was shake my head in amazement. I actually felt starstruck, so to speak. He told me how they sustained 80% casualties, how his captain was wounded, how the chaplain had blessed them as they disembarked the ship and assured them they would be back in 72 hours. He told me about going to his reunion for the survivors. He was very eager to talk, and I got the feeling if I'd been able to pull up a chair and stay, he'd have spent hours telling me of his adventures. This man lived through something that most of us cannot fathom. Something we can only read in books, or see in movies. I shook his hand, again, and thanked him not only for his service, but for the sacrifices he made for me, you, his country and the world. This was a very rare treat, and a story I just had to share. Think I might go back next week for more donuts.