JOHN KRAHNERT: Unforgettable Encounter on a City Street
Sometimes the most profound moments hit you when you least expect them. For me, it happened on a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago.
As I have written in a previous column, I was up in Boston to watch a football game and catch up with some of my college buddies. After the game, we went into the city to enjoy the frivolities that young 20-somethings enjoy.
The bar we visited was stuffy and packed, so my friend and I stepped outside for a minute to catch some fresh air on that clear and crisp New England evening. We leaned against a wall and shot the breeze for a few minutes. I can't even remember the topic.
About five minutes later, a young guy with a tightly cropped crewcut walked up to us in search of a lighter. He was wearing jeans, a black jacket and a black T-shirt with a design on it. Military dog tags and a crucifix hung from his neck. He looked barely old enough to enter a bar.
"You guys should join the Marine Corps," he said enthusiastically as he lit a cigarette. "It's awesome."
The comment, totally out of left field, took me aback. But my friend, who never misses a beat, struck up a conversation with him. As it happens, he told the kid, he is a law student and is looking into joining the Marine Corps' Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps.
The young Marine told us he was on liberty for 10 days and would ship back to Camp Lejeune in a couple of days. By the way he was talking, you would think he was a 5-year-old anticipating his first trip to Disney World.
"Ah, I can't wait to get back," he said. "I love it!"
We continued talking. He told us about his training at Parris Island, S.C., which he described as "hell," and the inner strength and character it built within him. He talked about the close relationships he had with his fellow Marines. One of his close friends tore a ligament in his knee before he could complete his training, which our newfound friend found devastating.
He also said how much he wanted to go over to Afghanistan and how important it was to win over there. My buddy asked him if he was nervous at all about going there, or something to that effect.
"If I have to die so all these people can go out and have a great time," he said, motioning to the bar, "I'm fine with that."
He repeated those sentiments a couple of more times during our conversation.
I was awestruck. So was my friend. We talked to the young Marine for a few more minutes. He then took a final drag on his cigarette and shook our hands. We thanked him for his service. He thanked us for caring and walked back into the bar.
I stood there for a minute, almost ashamed of myself. Here I was, out in the city with my friends having fun. My biggest concern every day is what story I'm going to write for the next edition of the paper, or what football games are on that weekend.
And here's someone who's telling me point blank that he will lay down his life so I can continue to worry about those silly things. Wow.
We see "Support Our Troops" stuff everywhere. The yellow ribbons. The TV commercials. But I wonder how many people have really paused to think about what these courageous men and women do every day. I know I'm guilty of not giving it enough thought. I know none of the people out at that bar that night dancing to Lady GaGa were thinking about it. I think it's fair to say that most people don't.
I never got the guy's name, but I'll never forget that conversation.
May God bless him and the thousands of other American troops who are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. And may the rest of us always remember how much we owe them.
Contact John Krahnert III at (910) 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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