Back around 2001, our ship was stopped over in an undisclosed location loading up tomahawk missiles. We were about a month or two away from deploying to the Persian Gulf. This would be my second time going. By that point, life sucked ass. I was almost 21 and my innocent childhood was long gone. My motivation for the military and my constant thought of regret weighed heavy on my heart while my buddies who went to college were out partying with cute girls every night. Even the week prior, there were protesters outside our base that bombed my truck with tomatoes as I drove into duty. Sorry people, I don’t really make decisions about war. But the thought of leaving for another six months had me at an all time low. This wasn’t summer camp. We finished loading up the tomahawks and I had the night off so a few buddies and I decided to say, fuck ship food and grabbed a taxi.
Ever since basic training, I’ve become a much more observant person. They teach you to use your peripheral vision while marching. So I was especially observant at this random steak house with alot of protesters lurking. It was me, my filipino buddy from Cali and my white buddy from Idaho and boyeee did we stick out. I could feel people’s eyes and lips engaging toward us. But the ironic part was that from boot camp to A school to the ship, I was use to sticking out. It didn’t really phase me any more. Either you got use to it or get the hell outta the room.
I spotted one table, a pretty young mom and dad with two kids who didn’t even try to hide their staring and pointing. And then they started to approach our table. My first thought was, damn what does this guy want? The dad introduced himself and said he could tell we were in the military from our haircuts. We said “hey” and kinda ignored him. He then said he wanted his kids to meet us and that it was an honor for his kids to be shaking our hands. I kinda laughed inside because no way did this guy just say that to us. And then he finally told us he had already paid for our dinner tab and thanked us for our service. We were seriously shocked. Why would this stranger from a different city in a different colored skin want to waste money on us. It made us feel important. It made us matter. It was such a small gesture at a time yet it completely lifted up my spirits. And it made me realize what we were doing wasn’t really about us but for the greater good. We got up and finally introduced ourselves properly. Petty Officer Third Class Anson Ho from San Francisco. And we thanked them again and they left.
After the family left, we sat down speechless looking at each other and were still in shock. And then slowly one by one, people around the restaurant came up to us and thanked us for our service and our sacrifice. It was amazing.