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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Chance Meeting: Do You Believe In War?

    I was driving home from a meeting in Sykesville, and I had decided to take a different route home. Right away I realize that this was a bad decision because of the many traffic lights and heavy traffic. I stopped at a red light and a man pulls up next to me on my passenger side. He motions for me to roll down my window. He asks, "Do you believe in war?" Right away I think this is because he saw my bumper stickers, although none of them mention war. The most prominent sticker is larger than the rest and is bright yellow with the snake and Don't Tread On Me...the Gadsden flag, also known as the TEA Party flag.

    I wasn't afraid. He was soft spoken with a Spanish accent. He didn't look threatening in any way. He didn't appear angry. I had all of these thoughts, and managed to answer before the light changed, "It depends." He looked perplexed at my answer. The light changed and I drove on.

    I stopped at the next red light and he again motions to me to roll down my window. He asks me, "How old were you in 1970?" I said, "eleven."

    "Have you ever heard of Viet Nam?"

    "Yes."

    "Where were you in 1970?"

    "I don't know. I told you I was a child. What is your point sir?"

    "Do you know that when I came home from Nam no one greeted me with tears of gratitude and flowers? They spit at me and called me names." Again, very soft spoken. 

    "I have heard about that. I am sorry."

    He again looks perplexed.

    "Thank you for your service. I am sorry that this happened to you."

    The light changed and someone beeped their horn. He said "Thank you," and waved me on. I lost sight of him in the traffic.

    I have been thinking about him and why he flagged me down. I was a stranger with a bumper sticker that he knew was political but didn't know exactly what it was. He felt like he needed to flag down a stranger and ask her about something that happened to him 44 years ago. Why? Why did I take that route? Why did we have this chance meeting? What am I supposed to learn from this interaction?

    All I could think was how sad it is that 44 years later a bumper sticker triggered his pain and he wanted to know if I understood it. I can't stop thinking about him. 

    I think that I will remember him again sometime in the future and it will be a significant moment. It will be an ah hah moment and I will understand why. I have always known about the mistreatment of our Vietnam vets. I've read about it and I've heard about it, but this was the first time that I felt it. 

3 comments:

  1. Life isn't always about what you learn, but what others learn from you.

    In this case, he learned that not everyone out there is like those who spat on him when he returned from Vietnam. He learned that there are those who appreciate him, even if they don't know him.

    I think you gave him just a little tiny piece of happiness to help fight through the pain which he has carried with him for so long.

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    1. Ken- Thank you for your comment. I hope that you are right about how our encounter may have affected him. I know that it affected me, and my gut just tells me it was one of those important moments in life that had to happen. I have always known about the mistreatment of our Vietnam vets. I've read about it and I've heard about it, but this was the first time that I felt it.

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