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You don't have to be a Marine to be a hero

The following story is the transcription of a radio commentary by Richard McMeekin, originally broadcast on Jones College Radio in Jacksonville, FL on November 10, 2008, and rebroadcast on 12/5/13. Thanks to Jones College radio for sharing this Heartfelt story of heroes in action:


Capt Greg Streeter sent me this a few months ago.  It fits today. 

As I came out of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood of his car up and a lady sitting inside the car, with the door open.  The old man was looking at the engine.  I put my groceries away in my car and continued to watch the old gentleman from about twenty-five feet away.  I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery bag in his arm, walking towards the old man.  The old gentleman saw him coming too and took a few steps towards him.  I saw the old gentleman point to his open hood and say something.  The young man put his grocery bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade and then turn back to the old man and I heard him yell at the old gentleman saying, "You shouldn't even be allowed to drive a car at your age.”  And then he got in his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot. 

I saw the old gentleman pull out his handkerchief and mop his brow as he went back to his car and again looked at the engine.  He then went to his wife, spoke with her, and appeared to tell her it would be okay.  I had seen enough and I approached the old man.  He saw me coming and stood straight and as I got near him I said, "Looks like you’re having a problem." He smiled sheepishly and quietly nodded his head.  I looked under the hood myself and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me.  Looking around I saw a gas station up the road and told the old gentleman that I would be right back.  I drove to the station and went inside and saw three attendants working on cars.  I approached one of them and related the problem the old man had with his car and offered to pay them if they could follow me back down and help him.  The old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife.  When he saw us he straightened up and thanked me for my help.  As the mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine) I spoke with the old gentleman.  When I shook hands with him earlier, he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine, too. 

I nodded and asked the usual question, "What outfit did you serve with?" He had mentioned that he served with the First Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal.  He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over. 

As we talked, we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics lower the hood.  They came over to us as the old man reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me and I told him I would just put the bill on my AAA card.  He thanked me quietly and then reached into-his wallet and handed me a card that I assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck it in my pocket.  We all shook hands all around again and I said my goodbye's to his wife.  I then told the two mechanics that I would follow them back up to the station.  Once at the station I told them that they had interrupted their own jobs to come along with me and help the old man.  I said I wanted to pay for the help, but they refused to charge me.  Both of the men told me then that they were Marine Corps Reserves and when they saw his license plate they knew there'd be no charge.  Once again, we shook hands all around and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look at the card the old man had given to me and I said I would and drove off. 

For some reason I had gone about two blocks when I pulled over and took the card out of my pocket and looked at it for a long, long, time.  The name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf and under his name "Congressional Medal of Honor Society”

I sat there motionless looking at the card and reading it over and over.  I looked up from the card, smiled to no one but myself, and marveled that on this day, four Marines had all come together, because one of us needed help.  He was an old man alright, but it felt good to have stood next to greatness and courage and an honor to have been in his presence. 

Reader Comments (2)

Great article, thanks for sharing. It's amazing how much you can change someone's day with only 15 minutes or a simple gesture/act of kindness. I hope that you were able to follow up with him, he is probably one of the best people to talk about heart felt leadership with. You don't meet a medal of honor winner every day!

April 12, 2014 | Registered CommenterKenneth Nelson

What a amazing story! Thank you for taking the time to truly care . Its unfortunate that many people will walk by, it makes me sad that some of our youth have no manners or heart. The young man was clueless to the service this man has done for our country and his well being. But in a good note God placed you! Not only willing to take a look at his vehicle but willing to pay for the repairs and in return your kindness was given forward. Three Marines that serve our country well were united to help an amazing Marine in need that in my book is worth more than a purple heart. Its a heart of Gold.

August 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterLulu
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