Applebee’s Restaurants offered some selected free meals today for all U.S. Military Veterans with proper documentation. I went to my local spot for my dinner. I had a wonderful special dinner and met an older Korean War Veteran at the table where we sat.
I’ll introduce you to Irving, a retired psychologist, but still very active tennis player. I estimate he is about 75 years old.
We met outside of the local Applebee’s tonight. We were both called to be seated at the same time but for separate tables. I felt that special psychic feeling and asked if we could be seated together. Irving agreed.
We both ordered the same meals, steak dinner with mash potatoes and vegetables. He drank water, I had an iced tea with lemon.
I told him I was in the U.S. Navy in 1970-71. He then started talking about his life. How he had grown up in a small farm town in Louisiana. Irving joined the U.S. Army in 1953 so he could finish his military service at a young age to then pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player. He came into the Army just before the Korean Cease Fire was signed and never left the States during his two years of service.
Afterwards, Irving went to try out for the Dodgers but an appendicitis attack sidelined him during training camp and missed the opportunity to make that pro team. He eventually turned away from that pursuit to play tennis, go to college and marry.
In the ensuing conversation with Irving, he revealed to me his life story. Irving spoke about adversity and how he overcame personal setbacks by believing in himself. As he spoke I began to see parallels in parts of his life and mine. I spent most of dinner listening to him, hardly speaking myself.
When I did speak, he listened intently to me. I gave him a very brief story of my life and how my career evolved from the various and different paths I walked. Looking deeply into my eyes, I could see he sensed things about me, in him too. It made the conversation more keenly experienced between us.
I did not ask for his last name. It’s most likely I will never see Irving again. He has his life to lead and so do I. What’s important to us was that this dinner tonight was special and unique to each of us during the two hours we sat together.
Life has many unplanned surprises. Applebee’s set the opportunity for veterans tonight to feel recognized for their service to our great nation. Irving and I enjoyed the magic of we two American veterans meeting each other and appreciating the gifts of life we’ve shared.