By staff writer Nathan DeGraaf
July 25, 2007
Dave: Were you ever in the military?
Nathan: No. They thought I was unstable.
Dave: Lucky bastard.
A few Saturday evenings ago, I was sitting in a bar, arguing over the importance of the designated hitter in Major League Baseball, when I saw an old barfly from way back when, a guy named Manny.
Manny used to come to the bar all the time back when he worked for a collections agency that had since gone out of business. He would buy all his “boys” (as he called his employees) a drink if they were having a good week. If they weren’t having a good week, he would watch them drink and try to motivate them—and since all his employees were men, he motivated them by embarrassing the holy hell out of them.
I kinda missed him.
Manny didn’t see where I was in the crowded bar, but he overheard my incessant ramblings about baseball (“Dammit, if the pitcher is in the game he should have to hit”) and said, “Shut up, Nate. No one cares.”
“Anyone who serves his country is worthy of respect and gratitude.”
I turned around, peered to my left, and sure as death and taxes, there was old Manny.
Manny was sitting at the bar next to his son, and I went over to talk to both of them. I had never met his son before.
Manny’s son had just turned 21 a week ago, and he was having one last drink with Pops. You see, the following Monday, Manny was to report to Ft. Benning, Georgia. He had joined the Army.
I thanked him for that, because that’s how I was raised.
It’s no secret that I’m against the war in Iraq, and that I feel that most wars suck sphincter, but my father and brother both served during war time, and many other of my relatives did as well. And I feel that any one who serves his country, for whatever reason, is worthy of respect and gratitude, because among many other reasons, they are fighting for my right to write about whatever I want, which is very important to me.
I wished Manny the best of luck, thanked him a few more times, forgot to buy him a drink (I’m an asshole for that and I’m sure my dad’s disappointed in me) and then headed off to buy a six-pack and pass out in front of the TV (I am as American as it gets).
When I woke up the next morning, I decided to go grocery shopping (I live an exciting life) and there I saw an old woman in a shirt that featured the words, “Support our troops. Send them home now.” And I thought about Manny’s son and the fact that he had deliberately joined the Army at a time of war, and I thought about all the other soldiers I knew, and I thought about all the soldiers who died, and then I thought about the fact that the most I had ever done for my country was thank veterans and servicemen for serving. And then I realized that I had never used my little corner of cyberspace, my little chunk of free speech, to thank all the men and women of the Armed Forces.
I’m a selfish sumbitch sometimes.
And so, to all you men and women in the armed forces, I offer the following:
Thanks for serving.
And if I ever meet you, remind me to buy you a drink.