some moments, better than most

Several months ago, a Vietnam Veteran gave me an extra cap he had ... a Vietnam Veteran ball cap.

When he first tried to give it to me, I remember strongly resisting. It did not "feel" right, and I knew I would never put it on my head. To me, it was like ... only the elite should wear that. It symbolized great sacrifice.

As usual with that man, I lost the little skirmish ... and the cap stayed with me. Since that time, the cap has hung on the hat rack, and more recently, in the top of my foyer closet.

The other day when I opened the closet to pull out a coat (because of this crazy Texas weather!), the cap stared down at me. I felt the tug of guilt again.

Somewhere ... there was a Vietnam Veteran who did not have one of those and would be proud to wear it.

Yesterday morning, I took the cap to church with me, carrying it gently in my arms along with my purse and my Bible. The greeters greeted me at the door ... friends hugged me ... and I began to ask around if anyone knew a Vietnam Veteran.

Of course, I knew we had several of them at church, but I was curious as to who would first come to their thoughts. Where would I be led?

"Richard!" they all pointed in Richard's direction.

"He was even wounded in Vietnam! He should have that!" they responded in unison.

I walked over to Richard Zipp, a Marine Veteran I've known for several years.

I held out the cap ... "Would you like to have this?" I asked him.

Many hours have passed since that brief exchange with Richard, but I cannot get the look I saw cross his face out of my head. It was a mixture of surprise, pleasure, honor, humility ... and as he ran his fingers across the logo ... disbelief almost ... perhaps it was sad nostalgia.

"Yes I would!  What do I owe you?" he asked as he reached for his wallet. "This must have cost you something!"

It cost you a lot more... my thoughts tumbled round ... though I could not say the words aloud because my emotions might escape.

Right after Terry died so suddenly, Richard had pulled me aside and quite boldly spoken with me about grief and overcoming any possible thoughts of suicide. I guess he feared for me ... what I might be going through ... thinking about ... after so unexpectedly losing a spouse I'd lived with for 42-plus years. He knew what grief was all about ... having lost much and many in Vietnam.

"Nothing! It cost me nothing!" I responded quickly.

"But where did you get this?" he pushed for answers. 

"From a Vietnam Veteran," I replied simply.

"Thank you, Betty. I really thank you," he said, shaking his head.

I walked toward the sanctuary, with a lighter step and a smile on my face. And though I was there to worship, I can't help but admit to you today that my thoughts wandered to Richard ... to the memory of that look on his face as he held the cap in his hands out there in the foyer ... surrounded by people who will never understand what Vietnam Veterans suffered and sacrified, especially when they came home unwelcomed.

We're all on a path ... some days, worse than others ... some moments, better than most.  

That was one of my better moments.

And to that Vietnam Veteran, who months ago gave me that cap ... thank you.  

All along, I think it was meant for Richard. 

March 17, 2014 - 3:32pm