The Few, The Proud, The Marines
This last Thursday was like any other day until I got to Apple Bees restaurant. Why was I there you may ask? Well that’s easy, I had a call there. I pulled up and an older man got into my front seat and said, “ok let’s go”. I asked where we were going and he simply said, “Carefree”. I know that Carefree is a senior living center in town but couldn’t remember where it was. I asked for the cross streets and after he gave me a few streets that ran parallel I realized that he is suffering from some for of Dementia.
I looked it up on my phone and it said that Carefree was only a block away. I started that way and had a good feeling that I was wrong. When we got to the intersection, he said to go left. I asked if he was sure and then made the left. He then started naming off streets and I noticed that the parallel streets he was talking about were the streets in order east to west that lead to Carefree.
I continued on until I came to the first red light of the trip. A mother with her daughter, who was about 4, crossed the street and the old man started rambling on. He kept saying, “Look at her, so sweet and innocent. How lucky for her to grow up in a great place like this and not worry about being killed.” At this point I started looking at him cross-eyed and was about to tell him he needs to keep that shit to himself when he said, “sorry, I don’t mean to sound creepy. I was a in the Marines for 44 years and have seen what other cultures do to their young. I’ve seen babies get beat to death, abused and ripped apart all to punish families for not fighting in the wars.”I couldn’t do anything but listen. He continued talking about how in some countries the local men would take babies and strap them to their bodies. They dis this knowing that most Americans would never shoot the baby and therefore it gave the enemy more time to shoot. The light turned green and he was getting upset as we continued down the street. He asked if I ever joined the military. I never did, and had strong reasons as to why, but didn’t want to tell him and get him to stop talking. Luckily he never asked why and just continued to tell me stories. He went on about some of his fellow soldiers that were killed and how they had to do unspeakable things to survive. At one point we both started to tear up.
I’ve heard many stories over the years and have yet to have any of them effect me this way. I asked if he could tell me what he did in the military and he simply said, “kill people”. I was stumped. How do you follow that up? I just sat quiet for a second and then he asked how I was doing. I gave him a quick “ok” and asked him the same. He said he was doing good and was looking forward to his son coming over later. They were going shooting and he was looking forward to this day for a long time. He continued on, telling me how he was born and raised in Texas and learned to love guns there. After the military, he got into hunting and kept talking about going to Africa. He was hoping to live long enough to take his son there once his son got out of the military. I asked what his son did. He said, “luckily nothing that I ever did. His Marines are a lot different then the Marines of yesterday.”
We pulled into the living center and he thanked me for letting him open up and hoped that I would pick him up more often. I gave him my number, knowing he would never remember and wished him a good day. I finished my day and as I was dropping off my last fare I heard a cell phone go off. I hunted around for it and found it under the front seat. I called back the number and asked if they lost their phone. The man said no but his dad must have. I knew right then whose phone it was. I asked his dad’s name and it was him. He told me that he was trying to get a hold of him so they could go out that day. I let him know that his dad was really looking forward to it and I heard a lot about him on the way back to his dad’s house. I let him know that I would drop the phone off to his dad in about 45 minutes on my way home for the day. He thanked me and asked for me to drop it off at the front office and he would get it on the way to go see his dad.
It’s fares like this that really make the job worth doing. I love sharing these moments with complete strangers.