It’s amazing what can happen in a Walmart parking lot.
I had just finished loading the back of my van and had already moved the gear shift into reverse when I was startled by a loud rapping on the front passenger window.
A woman who looked to be in her sixties and wearing a white face mask was frantically knocking on my window, her wide eyes looking at me with a sense of urgency.
“This can’t be good,” I thought. “Is my tail light out? Did I drop a bag?”
I rolled down the window, expecting to hear the worst. Nothing though quite prepared me for what came next.
“I just saw your license plate,” she said, “and I noticed the Operation Iraqi Freedom on it. Did you serve?”
“My husband did,” I replied.
“My son also served as part of that operation,” she said, “so I had to stop and thank you. He served two tours in Iraq, but he never made it back.”
I quickly threw the van back into park, put on my mask, and jumped out to embrace her.
We hugged each other tightly. Two strangers. In a Walmart parking lot.
My husband came home. Her son did not.
Yet through her grief, came also a profound pride for her son’s service to his country.
“If I had to lose my Timmy to something, this is how I would have wanted it,” she said.
We chatted for a few more minutes about her son, my husband, and the silent scars of PTSD that many veterans still battle with long after their service. Then we thanked each other again and parted ways.
I never learned her name, but there’s one name I can’t forget after today: Timmy.
To all our nation’s veterans, thank you. To the spouses and parents of veterans, thank you for your service. And to the Timmys who never came home, thank you for your great sacrifice in the name of freedom.
We are forever grateful.