Last Monday night, I spent an evening at my favorite cigar store with several good friends. We were laughing and carrying on as usual when a man came slowly walking in relying heavily on a cane he held with his left hand. He had a cast on his right wrist and a “World War II Veteran” cap on his head. As he passed in front of me I said “Good evening, young man.” He laughed and told me he was 83.
As soon as the veteran said he was looking for two Romeo and Juliets my friend Frank jumped up and opened the door to the humidor to help him find his cigars. A couple of minutes later, the veteran emerged with two cigars, which he plopped down beside the cash register as he reached for his wallet.
As soon as I saw his wallet I tapped him on the shoulder and said “No World War II veteran pays for his cigars in this shop.” I was about to reach for my own wallet when my friend Carl “The Chocolate Chaplain” Byrd shouted “put them on my tab.” The veteran shook my hand and thanked us all before turning and slowly walking towards the door.
After taking a few steps our new friend stopped and turned around. I saw a tear rolling down his left cheek just before he spoke with a voice that cracked with emotion. He said “I get awfully choked up when someone thanks me for my service. It means a whole lot to me.” I told him we all loved him for what he did for us. Carl got up and threw his arms around the man and hugged him before he turned around and struggled to work his cane towards the door.
After our veteran friend was gone the conversation went in an entirely different direction. We stopped trying to one-up each other. We even stopped exchanging insults, which is a favorite pastime at Brookelynn Cigars. We spent the rest of the evening telling stories about our uncles and grandfathers who served in World Wars I and II.
Someone mentioned that the last known veteran of World War I died just last year. We suddenly realized it wouldn’t be long before the veterans of World War II are gone as well.
When I woke up Tuesday morning and turned on my computer I noticed I had over 700 emails in my inbox. I had published an internet column at midnight before I went to bed. The column was about a kid named Kevin Casimer at Purdue University. Kevin was offended because a library science professor named Bert Chapman had talked about the economic costs of homosexuality on his personal blog. So Kevin started a petition to have him fired for “offensive” speech.