A Dollar Seventy-nine
Yesterday, as I was starting an IV on a patient in preparation for sedation, I noticed a tattoo on his arm. It was a Japanese koi. The sweep of the fins and the old but delicate line work told me this tattoo was not the crude marking of a stateside tattoo artist. The old man I was inserting the IV catheter into was a stoic sort, grizzled and grey haired with bulging eyes. He did not flinch as I slid the 18 gauge needle under his skin and into his radial vein.
Later, as the old man awoke in Recovery, I walked over and said "Reveille Sailor, all hands on deck. Time to heave out and tryst up." He smiled through the evaporating post surgical mental fog and pain .
"How did you know I was a sailor?" he muttered in slurred speech.
"Well, with that haircut, I knew you were no Marine," I replied. "I recognized your tattoo. Okinawa or Honshu?"
"I was on the Bon Homme Richard , CV-31, did a couple of world cruises and Korea. I got the koi in Yokosuka."
"I was on the Midway, home ported out of Yoko," I told him. "The honch was still hopping when I was there, but the exchange rate made it kind of expensive."
After he was more awake, we talked about his surgery a bit, I let him know what his recovery would entail. Before he rolled out and I went to the cafeteria, I told him "Thank you for your service."
"No, son," he replied. "Thank you for yours."
Update to today, and an open letter to Home Depot.
Today, I went in your store to purchase two air conditioner filters. I do not normally shop at Home Depot because several years back your store refused a return on an item that had been purchased the same day, and did not function. Never the less, since Lowes and a local home owned hardware store were out of the size filter I needed, I decided to let bygones be bygones, and give your store another chance. After all, what could go wrong with an air conditioner filter?
As I entered your store, I took note of a sign at the entrance heralding a ten percent discount for active military, reserves, retirees and veterans. "That's nice," I remarked to my wife, as I went to the heating and cooling aisle, "I'll have to ask for that."
I found my filter, and I picked up a spare as well and approached the register. As the young cashier rang me up, I asked for the 10% discount for veterans. She asked to see my driver's license. This was rather confusing, since I was paying cash. Then she said she needed to see ID to confirm my status as a veteran.
I informed your employee that I do not normally walk around with my DD214, but I would still like the discount, because I was indeed a veteran. Now most people would take one look at me with the military style haircut that I still wear, and the posture forged into my spine and know that military service was in my background. A veteran isn't hard to spot, and the monetary figure in question with this transaction was one dollar and seventy-nine cents. $1.79. After a couple of misguided remarks from your cashier and a conversation with the manager, I was awarded my dollar seventy-nine.
I served six years active duty. I served ten years inactive. I fought in one war, and a couple of campaigns. I have 123 days of actual combat, and numerous days that qualified for combat pay and hazardous duty pay in my military record. I am a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I served with distinction and honor. I am a veteran. One dollar and seventy-nine cents.
The slight I suffered from your cashier is minor. My purchase was small, and my military service relatively insignificant in comparison to others. In our city, we have numerous veterans. Some served in World War II. One was held prisoner by the Japanese, suffering brutal torture and starvation. Others served in Korea. Two were held captive in Hanoi, and still bear the scars from torture they endured while trying to survive. Many who live in our city fought in Vietnam. Younger men and women have fought in the Middle East. They have come home missing limbs and broken. They struggle to regain the life they left the United States with.
Suppose a Marine who lost a leg in Iraq, proudly walked into your store on a titanium prosthesis to purchase lumber for a project and asked for the discount you are offering. Lets suppose the purchase was two hundred dollars. Would the twenty dollars offered make up for his sacrifice? No.
Suppose a gentleman who served in Burma as a volunteer under General Claire Chenault, as a Flying Tiger, who was shot down over the South China sea, and who swam among sharks for three days awaiting rescue was to come into your store to buy a two dollar tube of caulk. Would the twenty cents you allowed him make up for his sacrifice? No way in Hell.
What about the husband who is struggling on a fixed income who hopes that the five dollars he will save on his fifty dollar purchase in your store will help him and his wife make ends meet? Is the fact that he still walks on crutches after having his legs broken in multiple places by his Japanese captors enough to prove he is a veteran? Does he need to contact the Department of Defense for a copy of his service record to present to your cashier?
These men walk among us. They are shopping at your store. They are our fathers, our grandfathers, our sisters, brothers, and our sons and daughters. They are real, and they do not carry an ID card to prove they are a veteran. They might be a tattooed biker, an accountant, a doctor, a waitress, or an unemployed vagrant with dreadlocks and a drug habit. If they served they are all veterans. Your cashier should not question the service of any of them. Not one. A discount is a poor excuse for a thank you. More over, a discount becomes less when the person receiving it must prove they deserve it. When that person must meet your standard to receive your corporate "thank you," then the gratitude is meaningless. Neither I, nor my brethren have anything to prove to Home Depot. You can keep your discount until you learn that it is no thank you without genuine appreciation.
At this point, it appears that your offering is no more than an apathetic and cynical advertising gimmick devised to take advantage of the service that others have given our country. You, and the employees you place in your stead before the public may not know what a veteran is, and you may not care. That is fine by me, and by thousands of other veterans. Using our military service and our sacrifices for your financial gain, however, is unacceptable.
Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. Independence Day. Your store will be open for business. It is my sincere hope that you will educate your employees in what constitutes a veteran and what constitutes appreciation. It is apparent Home Depot does not understand the meaning of either.
Please feel free to circulate........