Semper Fi

A hard cold rain is falling. The bistro is almost empty. I’m up front reading the paper waiting for customers.

The door swings open. I feel a blast of cold wet air hit my face. A young man, about twenty one, walks in.

“Are you open?” he asks.

“Yes we are.” I reply hopefully.

“Do you have a vegetarian menu?

“Well not specifically but we have pasta and I’m sure we can make you something. What kind of vegetarian are you?” I reply.

“I’m not vegetarian. My date is.” he answers.

“Do you know if she can eat fish or dairy? It would help if I knew.”

“I don’t know her that well.”

“Ah a blind date?” I say smiling.

“Yeah I just got back from boot camp and a friend of mine set up the date. I saw a picture. She’s really pretty.” he says.

“I’m sure she is.”

“But her girlfriend called and told me she was vegetarian. I have no idea how where to take her.” he says nervously.

Oh man if this kid was in boot camp he hasn’t been with a girl in months. He needs help.

“Well bring her here. I’ll take care of you myself and make sure it works out.” I offer.

“Thank you sir.” he says relieved.

Kids are calling me “sir” now.

As I take down his info I ask him where he completed boot camp.

“Parris Island” he announces proudly.

“Ah the Marines.”

“Yes sir. If your gonna sign up – sign up with the best.” he says

“Semper Fi to that.” I reply.

That elicits a big smile.

This is a really nice kid. He has an easy going manner and an innocent face. I’m feeling rather paternal. I want to make his evening go smoothly.

“Ok sir you’re all set. See you at eight o’clock.” I say

He thanks me, shakes my hand, and leaves. As he walks into the rain my stomach twists into a knot.

I realize he is probably going to Iraq.

Horrible images of this kid screaming in pain or lying dead in a dusty road fill my head. I shake my head to clear it.

I try and reassure myself. Statistically I know this kid will probably walk away from his military career with a few tattoos and even more bad drinking stories. That’s cold comfort. I knew this kid for only a moment. Imagine how his mother feels. For the first time I realized on a gut level how young most of our soldiers are. From my perspective they’re children.

I find myself worrying about this kid. Will he be ok? Will he be scared? Will he have the things he needs to survive?

I read in the paper today that during a “town meeting” morale talk in Iraq some servicemen laced into the Secretary of Defense. The asked him why there wasn’t enough body armor to go around. Why their vehicles lacked adequate protection.

Taken aback Rumsfeld stated “You go to war with the army you have. Not the army you wish you have.”

If I was at that town meeting that answer would have pissed me off. Then again my relationship with authority has always been tenuous at best. I’m sure it pissed off the parents of a lot of servicemen and women.

Rumsfeld never saw combat. Neither will his children. If my Marine was his grandson he might be singing a different tune.

Now I am not gonna get into whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong. Sometimes war is necessary. Sometimes it isn’t. I’m only a waiter. What do I know? But one thing is certain. War is not measured in territory gained or causes won. It is measured in blood spilt; limbs shattered, and lives prematurely ended. Meeting this kid tonight brought that reality home.

Eight o’clock comes and goes and no young Marine. Maybe his date went south. Maybe he thought my place was too expensive. That’s too bad. I wanted to pull out my waiter charm, flatter his girlfriend, and help him get laid. Hey – it’s my way to support the troops.

As I walk to my car I think about that young man. I hope he’ll be all right. I hope he comes home.

Semper Fi kid.


Comments

Semper Fi — 14 Comments

  1. A comment like that would have pissed me off as well. If they’re sitting in their cushy little house with their cushy little ass sitting on a cushy little chair, they can afford to get off that ass, sell their damned car and at least provide armor for one more person. You don’t see the people making those statements out there FIGHTING to get these kids what they need. And that is what makes their opinion worthless to me. Instead they’re like “oopsie. I didn’t think of that.”
    Bah, I can’t go off the ball about war either, someone with a regular life like me has no access to the info our govt. does…
    But, comments like that just make me want to slap someone.

  2. You’re not just a hell of a waiter, you’re a hell of a person. Sadly, most don’t treat our troops with the amount of respect you showed this Marine.

  3. Viet Nam Vet, didn’t like going to war. don’t like sending my kids to war. I wish you well for your words and hope that the next generation can figure out how to stay outta other folks business.

  4. Amen.

    I’m eighteen. It’s my buddies that are getting ready to go off to hold this god-forsaken occupation.

    I got a cousin who just came back; ended up in the wrong place at the wrong wrong time, lost half her hearing and any chance she had at a meaningful career back home.

    And yet I’m still hearing the same thing from everyone. “It’ll get me through college.” “My father fought for this country, too.”

    May whatever divine power is watching us protect them, because our government surely doesn’t want to.

  5. A waiter you say? More like an angel… a man with true compassion (who’s not afraid to wear it like a badge of honor). Speaking of badges of honor, that kid and the tens of thousands like him past present and future, deserve the best our country can provide PERIOD, no excuses.

    God bless America, God bless our troops and God bless you, a waiter who understands that caring service does not begin and end at the table.

  6. Adam-

    The next time someone chimes in with a knowing, “It’ll get you through college.” remind them that it may also get you a pine box. Student loans and a part time job will also get you through college.

  7. This post really means a lot, even though it is nearly four years old. My brother is a Marine and I have often wondered the same thing…is he okay?

    I have deployed to Iraq myself, but am often as “sheltered” as you can get over here. My brother however…

    I hope that date said “screw dinner” and jumped his bones the minute he got to her house.

  8. Personally, I think the war is bullshit. Pointless political bullshit.

    But the soldiers who fight and die, for whatever reason, always have my respect.

  9. Well, I got back from Afghanistan 6 months ago…….minus my legs.
    Thank you for being mad at what he said about armor. But fact is? He’s right. And we all knew what we signed up for. I will never walk normally, but I did it willingly. As long as the people back here in America are safe, then our armies will go fight, equipment or no equipment.

  10. Dear Dingo: I am truly sorry for your loss. Thank you for your service. Everyone else that posted, military or not, thank you. Waiter, thank you for doing whatever you can to help out our troops. No matter how small, it means a lot. My fiance is Navy, he’s a recruiter now so he’s safe at the moment, but his brother is on his 4th tour in Afghanistan with the Army, he has a 10 year old son but has only been around for 6 years of that child’s life. My ex husband went to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar as an Air Force Officer. He is fighting physical and emotional illness just to stay in and earn a pension. It’s sad, and it sucks. But all 3 of these amazing men who are very dear to me, are proud to serve and wouldn’t change a thing. I’m always amazed by them. Before my ex’s first deployment, he came to visit me for two days and his flight got delayed, so he missed his connecting flight and wasn’t going to be able to make it until the next day. A man who also missed his connecting flight invited him to share a rental car and dropped him off right at my apartment, didn’t ask for a single cent. To this day my ex remembers this man better than he remembers any of his ass hot deployments to the 3 different sandboxes he had to sit in. God Bless all of you, and I hope you all realize that every kind gesture, no matter how small, means a great deal to these amazing men and women who serve–regardless of politics. <3

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