Thursday, May 22, 2008

Old Glory

The sun was nearly at its zenith as I slouched down and sat on the sidewalk outside the VA office. I wanted to quickly go there and to the records office to give them a copy of my military documents, showing I just came off Active Duty orders from Iraq. But things didn't go as planned...

Driving felt funny. Every piece of debris in the roadway reminded me of possible bombs.

Remembering all the customs, social rules and driving laws wasn't foreign, but it still felt strange nonetheless.

When I came out of the VA building, my car had been towed away. I couldn't believe the pitiful irony -- a war vet, home only a couple of days, sitting all alone on the sidewalk downtown, looking like a beggar or a transient.

I'm sure I looked a little strange to the passers-by. The shirt I wore was wrinkled from being in a tight closet for over a year. When I debated ironing my shirt, I figured I'd do it after I got home. Besides, I just enjoyed wearing anything other than my military uniform. But I didn't care too much what anyone else thought. I was just happy to see real concrete, smell an American city, see the people, and enjoy the sun from the U.S. soil.

Looking up and across the street, I couldn't help but see the big, beautiful high-flying American flag blowing in the cool breeze. Her glorious red and white stripes and her brilliant stars amid the bluish hue took my breath away. I was sure that the flag meant something to me that it didn't mean to others. I felt like crying and shouting for joy all at once.

When I went to pick up my car, the owner saw my military ID still in the front of my wallet. When he learned I had just come back from Iraq, he shook my hand and sincerely thanked me, waiving the $125 fee. He said he was too young for the Korean War and missed the Vietnam draft, but that his father served in WWII and his brothers in the other wars. He wanted to do his part. Believe me, his kindness was much appreciated.

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