An Honoring Our Veterans Contest entry
|I was sitting on a balcony with my friend Steve. He’s a Gunnery Sergeant retired from the Marine Corps. I’ve never served, but I like to think of myself as a friend of the family. It was sunny and hot at my place in Indio, and the cold beer from the ice chest was crisp and refreshing. As was usual when we got to talking, everyone else kind of left us alone. I’ve been calling him on November 10th every year to wish him a happy birthday. For anyone who doesn’t know, Marines are reborn and all have the same birthday. I don’t know the details, because I’m not one of them. However, we were discussing some year before when I called, when I was in Las Vegas. The men from Twenty-nine Palms… or twenty-nine stumps as I’ve heard it called, were celebrating. The USMC men were in full dress, and their dates were in gowns. It was a nice night. Then I told Steve this story about a night I called him:
The Marine Corp Ball is a pretty big deal, or so I’m told, and it sure looks the part. That night in Las Vegas, down on the strip there were hundreds of men in full dress, and on each arm was a young lady wearing a gown. It was a sight, for certain. I ended up in one of my favorite places there, the Bellagio. At midnight, the lights on the casino lit up red, white, and blue. Then, The Star Spangled Banner began to play, with a magnificent fountain display that is hard to describe.
A uniformed young man -- a Lance Corporal if I recall my insignia correctly -- was standing next to me. I gave him a slight nudge. “I do believe this one is for you, Marine.” He responded, “Thank you, sir!” I said, “Oh no, you say ‘sir’ and I look around for my Dad. I work for a livin’, too.” He chuckled.
After the song finished, and I’m not going to lie, I was a little misty. The National Anthem just kind of does that to me. But, while I might have been a little wet around the eyes, the woman with him was literally weeping. Full on, no holding back, bawling her eyes out. I noticed she was also staring at her hand, which bore an engagement ring. I just couldn’t help myself. I said, “Young man, did you just propose to this woman?” He smiles, “Yes, sir. I did.” I let the whole sir thing go at that point. “I didn’t expect this though!” I held out my hand. “Well, you’ll get used to that… I guess I get the honor of being the first one to congratulate you.” We shook, I clapped him on the shoulder, and then headed down the Boulevard.
I’m not sure why that story sticks in my head to this day, but it was just one of those moments you don’t want to forget. It had been a couple years since it had happened.
Then my friend said, “You know? I think you’d have made a fine Marine.”
It stunned me for a couple seconds. “Steve… You know I have a huge problem with authority.”
“Yeah. The best ones usually do…” Then he just casually got another beer and changed the subject.
To this day, that is one of the finest compliments I have ever received. Hell, it might very well be number one.