Every now and then, I come across someone who claims “veteran” status, when in fact, all they did was sit in the front of the television and observe while the real vets were actually the ones caught in whatever fray was going on at the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I do come from a military family and I do support all our veterans, even the ones who were desk jockeys or didn’t have to go into battle.
Were you a cook in the military? You deserve special praise. Feeding folks is a tough job. I only have two to feed and most of the time I want to pull my hair out.
Never mind having to feed a battalion.
If you had the gumption to sign a few years of your life away to the government to protect and serve our country whether it be in the military, or as a fire fighter or police officer, my hat is off to you.
God bless you.
However, every once in a while I do come across someone who has a rather tall tale to spin. A yarn. A good fish story. A classic fable.
Someone who likes to say they served in Vietnam. Who claims to have crawled in the muck and mire with their fellow soldiers, dodging bullets and narrowly escaping land mines, managing to return safely home with all their body parts intact.
Not necessarily all their mental faculties, but everything else looks in good order.
One such example was a guy I’ll call “Chuck.”
I happened to see Chuck the other day, standing in sort of an alleyway between the grocery store and the mall.
Chuck was tall and proud.
He was wearing a nice clean pair of Lee jeans and some pretty slick cowboy boots.
He had on a plaid cowboy shirt, and his hair was combed just so, his long silvery locks whispering just around the tops of his shoulders.
He was wearing a good-looking cowboy hat, even though it showed some age, it was meticulously kept and no worse for the wear.
He had some kind of “Western-themed” bling around his neck, like silver and turquoise.
I was trying to reconcile his look with what he was holding in his hands.
He was standing there, aviator sunglasses covering his eyes, his hat dipped low over his brow, holding a cardboard placard.
On the placard was written “Vietnam Veteran. Please help. Down and out.”
I parked my car and went over to him.
“Really? You were in Vietnam?”
“Yes ma’am. That’s right. I was.”
“How old are you?”
“Oh. You’re 60. Where are you from?”
“What branch of the military did you serve?”
“I was in the Army. Special Forces.”
“Got any tattoos?”
“Yes ma’am, I do.”
“Let me see one.”
Chuck laughed and said, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, let me see one of your tattoos. Just wanna see if you have a pair of jump wings tatted on your body anywhere.”
“Well, I don’t have any jump wings.”
“Hmm. That’s what I figured. You were Army Special Forces and you’re out here holding up a sign for help? What’s wrong with a strong able-bodied person like yourself getting a job somewhere? I know there are lots of jobs available here for a guy like you who has experience.”
“Ma’am, I’m just looking to supplement my income.”
“By standing out here with a cardboard sign? What if your buddies from the 2nd Platoon saw you out here. What do you think they’d say to you?”
“The second what?”
“Platoon. Second Platoon.”
“I wasn’t in a platoon. I was on my own.”
Whoa. I just felt my feet sink deeper in it.
“Dude, fess up. You’re a fake, aren’t ya?”
He stood there holding his sign, not budging or speaking.
I shook my head and got back into my car, trying really hard to think like a good Christian toward this person.
I know folks come up with different ways to make a dollar but that kind of thing really bugs me.
I went by a couple of days later and drove slowly past old Chuckster the Huckster.
He was holding a different placard.
Still dressed to kill for a little boot-scootin’ boogie, but his sign had a new plea.
“Out of gas. Out of money. Please help.”
I gave him a thumbs up.
But I wouldn’t flip him a plug nickel.