“Lest I keep my complacent way I must remember somewhere out there a person died for me today. As long as there must be war, I ask and I must answer was I worth dying for?”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
On March 2, 2009, a good friend and fellow soldier was killed in action by a rocket-propelled grenade in Taji, Iraq. When I got the word, I was safe and sound on my couch stateside. I was stunned. He was less than a month away from coming home. I was reminded again how short life is, and just how quickly it can be snuffed out.
His sister now runs an organization in his name, and last year during the anniversary month of his death she held a Pay It Forward campaign. She crafted cards that had his name and date he was killed in action, along with the message that the deed was done in his honor, and handed out several to anyone who requested. Of course, I requested some.
I wasn’t stateside during March, but I did my deeds in July 2013. I paid for a random elderly fellow’s dinner, paid for the car behind me in the fast food line, and gave a few homeless people $20 a piece while stuck at red lights. It was one of those homeless people who made me tear up.
While all of them were grateful, one man stuck out. He wasn’t old, nor did he look particularly disabled, but I’m no doctor and I have no idea what exactly his troubles were. I didn’t even read his sign. I see him when I’m approaching the red light, and reach for my purse to grab $20 and my last card. I rolled down the window and handed him both. What struck me was that he didn’t look at the money first, and he didn’t continue walking to the next vehicle like most do. He paused, stuck the money in his pocket, and unfolded the card. It only took him a few seconds to read it, and when he was done he looked up at me with eyes full of tears. At that moment, I glimpsed his sign and saw “disabled vet” written on it. He still didn’t move on to the next car. He slowly walked back to his makeshift seat on the corner with the card in his breast pocket and watched me drive away with tears in my own eyes.
That’s the power of Pay It Forward. That’s the bond between veterans. I don’t know his war. He doesn’t know mine. Neither of us will ever know, yet it doesn’t matter. It’s knowing that we’re part of a brotherhood, and we’re never alone even in our darkest hour. It’s a feeling I’m not even sure how to put into words.
I think about that homeless veteran often. I hope that my buddy knows that his life, while short, was worth so much to so many people…and that even though he’s no longer physically here, he’s remembered by people who never even had the pleasure of knowing him personally.
Rest In Peace, Jeff.
Mia lives in Austin, Texas, works a full-time job, and attends school. She loves to learn in almost any subject…except math. She loathes math. She loves to read, hang with friends, drink during great times, workout, and be a couch potato.
Mia believes in humanity, justice and redemption. She feels that what you put out into the world is what you get back. Read more of her work at Nothing Figured Out