Let me start by saying we are supposed to push into the 90s today. Sure, that isn’t as bad as where I grew up in South Carolina, but for Wisconsin, that is hot. Luckily today I am in an air-conditioned office being a logistical wizard. I did brave the heat to pick up some lunch for myself and a coworker.
I walk out of the place where we had ordered from and this slightly heavyset, obviously Native American man with a duffle bag calls out to me, “Marine?” Now, gentle readers, picture this: I am a 6’5, 350lbs computer geek. Granted I have decided to keep my head shaved because I am balding so bad it is pathetic (helps that my wife likes it shaved so I do it for her). In my opinion, I in no way look like a Marine, current or former. I calmly respond, “No sir, my grandfather was one in WW2.” Don’t ask why I volunteer such information to so odd a question asked between complete strangers. It was a reflex response. The other man has stopped across the car from me near the front corner of my passenger side as I open the driver’s door.
He tells me this story about how he is visiting his brother on the reservation (points west so he did know where we were in relation to the reservation) and says he is trying to get to the east side of town. I hate to assume anything of anyone on appearances alone, but my immediate assumption that he is probably homeless will be clear in a moment.
I shake my head slowly, replying, “Sadly I am heading north back to the office. I was just picking up lunch for one of the guys and myself.” I could see disappointment flash across the man’s face. He began pressing me if I could just “take him as far as I was going”.
I know the world is full of horror stories about hitchhiker’s. Hell, I might use this in a thriller or horror book if I ever write one. Something told me this guy was harmless. I pause and I could tell he was thinking I might relent. I respond, “Look, I can take you up to the Kwik Trip before I get back on the highway.” For those of you unfamiliar, Kwik Trip is a gas station chain. Probably one of the best I have ever seen for their hot bar of sandwiches and such. Their gas seems to run pretty well in my vehicles compared to BP or Shell.
The man was pretty excited about it. It was hot and I am sure even the mile I was moving him along would be a help to him. It also put him near a pretty busy intersection so maybe he could find someone else who is going across the river to the east side of town. He climbed in the passenger side and we began talking.
He tells me that he asked if I was a Marine because I looked like an old buddy of his from the service. He knew it couldn’t be his old friend because the fellow soldier died in combat in Afghanistan. I expressed my sympathies for his loss and my appreciation of his service. I did not end up joining the Air Force when I had graduated high school, but my little brother served two tours overseas. Veteran’s and service personnel are true heroes, even if they never see combat and just are the ‘paper pushers’. Someone has to make that big machine keep rolling.
Waiting on a stoplight to turn green, this is where I knew he was saying whatever he could to get someone to help him. He begins talking about his time as a member of Seal Team 4, and how horrible it was that the enemy took out Seal Team 6. In my head I am trying to reconcile him being a Marine in Afghanistan, and a member of Seal Team 4 (which is South/Central America according to the Navy website by the way). I didn’t call him on his discrepancies. It was bloody hot out and I didn’t really go out of my way. I had a small concern that he might try to grab the wheel or something of the car. I figured I could probably handle him if it came down to it. Even though the idea that this could end badly flashed through my mind, my gut reaction was that he was just down on his luck.
So away we went. A short mile or so later I dropped him off at the gas station with a full parking lot. We said good bye, he thanked me again for the short lift and off he went.
“Matt”, if that is your true name. I don’t know whether you were a true Vet or not but it did not matter to me. You were a fellow human being, obviously suffering, and I was glad I could be a little help. I wish I had been just out for the day, I might have dropped him off somewhere on the east side of town. Sadly my job requires my presence so I had to head back. Take care.
A Brief Car Ride
The hot sun blazes
The car is cool and shaded
“Can I get a lift?”
A man down on his luck
Approaches me in a parking lot
“Man it sure is really hot,
Can I get a ride in your truck?”
“I have been visiting my brother
But now it’s time to head home
I’m hoping to find another
Going my direction.”
“Sir, I wish I could be of help to you
But at the highway I turn north
It’s only a mile but if that’ll do
I can drop you at the station.”
“That would be great
I appreciate it man
You are a good soul.”
“Don’t mention it sir
Thank you for your service too.
Good Luck, Safe Travels”