Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I have a prayer for our soldiers today, and I am grateful for the reminder to lift them up. I'm sorry that I needed the reminder, and for any offense I might cause in sharing this story.
It started with gas. I was filling up at the Valero in Temple, waiting for Lauren's sweetheart to finish at the hospital so I could take him home. The young man in the car next to me kept staring at me, and I was a little uncomfortable. I pumped my gas, put the handle back on the thingamajig, and got ready to return to my car.
He said, "Excuse me, Ma'am. Can I ask you to buy me a breakfast sandwich? I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "Can I ask you to buy me a sandwich? I'm hungry."
I said, "What's going on?" He had a pick-up truck full of suitcases, but he had a weird look on his face.
"I just got back from Iraq a few months ago, and I put the last of my money in my gas tank, and I'm hungry."
He was wearing civilian clothes, so I asked, "You're in the military?"
"Yes, Army, Ma'am."
I said, "Do you have an ID card?" Forgive me, Lord, for being so skeptical.
"I've got a VA card." He pulled an ID card out of his wallet, with his name and photo and the words, "Service related injury." I guess that's what the VA issues to injured soldiers. "I have PTSD and I'm not doing too well."
I went to my wallet, and all I had was $6.00. "You can have what I have."
"I'm just hungry. I swear. I'll go in this store right here and buy a sandwich."
I said, "Okay, I'll watch your truck." He went into the service station, and a lady got into the passenger seat. She was a good bit older than him. I asked her, "What's the matter?"
"He just got back from Iraq, he has PTSD, his wife left him, and I'm taking him to the VA but I just gave him what money I had to put in his gas tank. I'm his aunt, and my husband and I have given him all we have." She tried to hand me 11 cents. "You can have the change from the gas."
"No, I don't want that. I just wanted to make sure he really needed help." Please forgive me, Lord. For doubting this opportunity you've given me.
She said, "I don't blame you, people trick people all the time. But I know God will bless you and I thank you for helping him. He's tried to take his life twice and I'm going to try to get the VA to help him."
I said, "I know this has been a hard war on so many young people. I'm glad he has you."
She said, "Today I'm glad he has you. Thank you, Ma'am."
I feel like such a heel. Why should this soldier have to prove his need for help to me? For a whopping six bucks? I felt so angry with myself. I got into my truck and left, but pulled over a few blocks later, tears filling my eyes. Why Lord? Why must I doubt the opportunities you give me to be your hands, your feet, your heart?
I hope this soldier boy gets the help he needs. Sometimes the war feels so far away, but here he is, a young man, fighting for his life in the only way he knows how...trusting our health care system to help him make sense of his journey long after leaving foreign soil. And I treated him like a foreigner, a stranger.
I've got this boy on my heart now, and I will lift him up. And for all my military friends and family, I ask for forgiveness, and say thank you for your service, which is what I should have said first and foremost today to that soldier boy.