Monday, June 1, 2009

Plumbing the depths of the soul

Walking my daughter to school is one of the day's highlights.

This morning I put on the official walk-your-kid-to-school uniform of a sweatshirt and a baseball cap. (Unlike 98% of the other parents on this trek, I don't have a blonde ponytail hanging out of the back of my cap and I don't wear Pearl Izumi Spandex pants.)

We got her bike out of the garage and hadn't gone 10 feet when I see a stranger crossing the street grinning at me with his hand out like he wants to shake hands. He is Hispanic and is wearing a dark work uniform.

Having been accosted in this exact spot by some non-friendly's a few months back, I recoiled a bit and got in front of my peanut.

"First?", he asked.

"Excuse me?"

"Your hat. 1st Cav?"

I had no idea which of several hats I had slapped on my head. I had on a hat I bought in Iraq with the crossed sabers of the Cavalry.

"Was that you, sir?", he asked.

"No, it was my son."

"Oh, which unit?"

"Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment."

"Fort Campbell?"

"No, he was in Vilseck, Germany."

"Oh, no way. I opened the new Rose Barracks in 1988. I was there with 1st Armored Division. That gives me chills." I could see the memories rolling over him.

"Is your son still there?"

"No, sir. Unfortunately, he was killed in Iraq 18 months ago."

His head dropped. He looked back up and looked me straight in the eyes. "I am so sorry, sir. Thank you for your son's service."

Then we shook hands.

"And thank you for yours, sir."

He turned and crossed the street with his head lowered. He had seen a ghost. He had crossed paths with another brother-in-arms. They had slept in the same barracks. Eaten at the same mess hall. Trained at Grafenwoehr.

I don't know if I will ever see him again. I hope so.

But I do know who I will call if I have need for a plumber. Peanut and I saw his truck as we made our way to school.

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