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Second Chance to Meet

I’d seen the World War II Veteran about a year ago, sitting in Safeway’s Starbuck coffee area. I thought about stopping to greet him, but in my rush, I quickly gathered my groceries and left the store.

I immediately felt that sense that I missed an opportunity. But I didn’t have time, I told myself.

I never saw the old man again, until this week. He was in the same place, reading a newspaper.

I smiled and slid into the chair across from him. I thanked him for his service to our nation. His cap had the insignia of the Coast Guard, and the remarkable label: World War II Veteran.

He smiled back and asked, “May I have the pleasure of your name?”

I told him and he said his name was Dale.

I asked where he’d served. He reached inside his vest and pulled out a worn leather pouch.

“I have permission of the US government to carry this with me.” Dale showed me his honorable discharge documents. And because I wanted to know more, he showed me a picture of the vessel he’d been on in the Philippines.

He pointed to where he served as a gunner. It looked like a vulnerable spot—which I’m sure he knew. He didn’t share any gruesome stories, but I sensed his deep honor to have served.

He was now 97. I wondered about the young man that bravely manned the gunner. I thanked Dale again for the privilege of living in freedom here in America.

I asked if I could take his picture. “Oh, I’m not much to look at.”

“I think you are.”

Of the 16.1 million Americans who fought in World War II, only 119,550 are still alive. If you get a chance to meet one, it’s worth your time. I’m so thankful I had a second chance to meet this amazing man.


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