On Sunday, Feb 24th, it was my time of the month again. The time I put on my uniform and travel South to Rosemount, Minnesota for my weekend drill. Drill itself was uneventful except for the adventuresome perils of driving 40 miles each way during the worst winter weather of 2001. Most of what I do at drill I can't write about and expect to keep my security clearance anyway, but there was one event that happened on the way home on Sunday that I would like to share. A few weeks ago, my wife's wallet (the thing she normally keeps in her purse) was misplaced at Ruby Tuesdays in the Mall of America. Since it was on my way and we were released a little early to avoid the weather, I stopped by the great temple of American consumerism to pick up the misplaced wallet. I was in uniform, having come directly from the drill site. As I walked through the mall to get to the resturant (I had parked on completely the opposite side of where I wanted to be, as usual) I got the standard looks and double-takes so common in the non-military presence state of Minnesota. You rarely see anyone in uniform in MN unless you are very close to a recruiting office or at the airport. I am used to this phenomenon, and it doesn't phase me at all. I usually just smile and stick my chest out trying to be the best ambassador of the Naval Service as I can.
What happened after I had retrieved the wallet and done a little shopping, (since I was there) was something I will never forget. I had dropped my sunglasses in the snow while making a final security check of a building placed very close to the edge of our drill site with another petty officer. I picked them up and blew as much snow off as possible. In my car on the way to the mall, I had these sunglasses on and they were nearly impossible to see through, with streaks and salty water spots on both lenses. When I was finished with my business at the mall, I stopped into the restroom to clean my glasses. I had nothing in my car to wipe them with, and the poly-wool blend uniform I was wearing would have only made matters worse. Thinking I could rinse them off and wipe them clean with a paper towel was my idea, but to my horror, after I had run them under the faucet, I found that the restrooms in the mall only had warm air hand dryers. So I looked around for any type of cloth to dry them off. There was none. There was however another person in the restroom, at the sink, with a flannel shirt tied around his waist. When he understood the purpose of my visit and realized that I was about to fail, he untied the shirt and offered me the corner to wipe the water from my glasses. Do I think that he would have done that had I not been in uniform? No way. There are a lot of wierdos at the Mall of America, they will admit that freely. That is the precise reason they have a SWAT-like emergency response team stationed there. But seeing the uniform put this indiviudal at ease to the point that he offered to assist in solving a problem that in a global sense was inconsequential, but to me was monumental. This person may or may not have been in the service, I don't know, but I would venture to guess that his support of the United States Military goes well beyond helping some poor first class petty officer clean his glasses. I offer my thanks to this person and all of those people like him that do support the military, whether they do so directly, like he did, or indirectly, in thier thoughts and prayers.
Fair winds and following seas.