An elderly couple sat near me while I used the WiFi at McDonald’s. Only after I’d put my netbook away did the wife half initiate a computer conversation. Talk of email, glitches, and various software related learning curves segued into a wonderful time during which the busy present fell away as talk turned to the past.

I noticed the nearly 90 year old husband half’s WWII veteran cap,
and proceeded to accidentally refer to him as a WWI veteran! He bellowed at me: WWII!!! I apologized. We all laughed, and he told me his war stories.

So I sat for a timeless time learning some things I’d never heard before. How the processing of draftees from one geographical area worked. What it was like to be on the very brink of embarking on a highly potential one way trip to the D-Day invasion, but called back to serve as a medical technician elsewhere at the last minute. “42,000 men lost that day. I’m the luckiest…” How wonderful yet melancholy the tiniest of reminders of home can be when you’re so very far away from it. How much it means to have served and to still be appreciated for it.

Much of that was spoken aloud. Some only in the far away look in his eyes and the acknowledgment in the gift of a smile. I love history and I love learning about it from people who lived it. People who lived remarkable lives, yet tell of them with humility and quiet strength.

Many veterans of that terrible war won’t speak of it. Some cannot bring themselves to. Others offer the gift of their knowledge. I am grateful for what they’ve done, and just as grateful that their courage and strength are in large part responsible for the freedoms we enjoy today, more than half a century later.