Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Sack Lunches

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

' Chicago - to Great Lakes Base. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Iraq.'

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached Chicago , and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time. As I reached for my wallet, I overheard soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch . Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to Chicago.' His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me.'My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it's almost like you are doing it for him.' Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated.

She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?' 'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars. Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane.When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, an said, 'I want to shake your hand.'

Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand. With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed in Chicago I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little.
Troop Smiley 1


Mary said...

I read this about a week ago...but loved reading it again!

Mama Wheaton said...

What a great story, I just read it aloud to my family. Have a great weekend!

Diamond said...

Very nice...thanks for sharing!

Cassie said...

This is such a heart warming story, it brought tears to my eyes. I've sat in airports and watched enlisted men and women in uniform walking around, lugging their duffel bags. I always think about what is inside of them, and know that it is packed as full as possible of required gear and clothing, with little room left for the few personal "treasures" that they carry with them.

I always think about how a picture of family and friends isn't quite the same as being in the presence of their caring hearts. Stories like this, should encourage EVERYONE to do even the smallest act of kindness for these men and women. Even if it is a nod of the head, and a smile as they pass by.

For me, when I see people in military's like seeing a priest or Mother Teresa, kind of. We should all give them respect, for their sacrifices. Thanks for the wonderful story.

MaBunny said...

i love that story. i received it in an email a few weeks ago.
EVERY TIME I see a soldier, no matter where I , or my family is at , we make a point to thank them.
I see several that are parents of school mates of my daughters and I see them at special events, maybe the first they've been able to attend in a long time. It sickens me when people ignore these brave men and women.
Thanks for posting this around the holiday season. It reminds us to be generous and thankful for all we have.

ChicagoLady said...

I've received that via email a couple times, it's always nice reading it again.

Lynnette said...

Thanks for sharing this heartwarming story. Now I shall go wipe my eyes.

The Wife O Riley said...

I am hyper-emotional today, which is a nice way of saying "Hot Mess" So needless to say I am sobbing all over the keyboard.