The Sack Lunches


I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

'Chicago - to Great Lakes Base. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Iraq '.

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached Chicago, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time. As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to Chicago '.

His friend agreed. I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq; it's almost like you are doing it for him.'

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best - beef or chicken?'

'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked.

She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 'This is your thanks.'

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, 'I want to shake your hand.'

Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain's hand. With a booming voice he said, 'I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.' I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm. When we landed in Chicago I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.'

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals.

It seemed so little...

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

John McCain understands this. Barack Obama does not.


NOTE: This post, while it is completely 100% representative of my sentiments and edited by me, originally derived from an email circulating around the net. I am NOT the one that acted this way on the airplane as described in this post.

HOWEVER, I have acted in this way consistently in the past when I have had opportunities to do so. The most notable example being rafting the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia in 2007 with a group of Six Para-Jumper Instructors. These guys have been deployed in Iraq multiple times. Their job is to train parajumpers, those in the military who parachute behind enemy lines or in hostile situations to recover fallen Americans or equipment or other items as dictated by their mission. After rafting with this group of six outstanding Americans, I bought all their beer and food all night long as a token of thanks for what these heroes do for us every single day, mostly without our knowledge.

But the point of this post is not about what I or you or the author of this email did for any group of our military on any particular day. The point of this post is about the concept of honor that we don't think much about anymore or sadly, that most Americans really don't understand anymore--as it applies to our elected officials.

This post will remain up as the first post on my blog through election day on November 4. My point in making this post and in leaving it up through Election Day is just to underscore one major difference between John McCain and Barack Obama. John McCain understands the type of honor as described in this post. Barack Obama has no personal experience with this kind of honor and certainly does not understand it the way John McCain does. I do not write this to belittle Barack Obama in any way. I merely write this to emphasize my conviction that honor is a most important quality any candidate for President of the United States must have; and in this way at least, I think most Americans will agree that John McCain is more qualified to be President, independent of the strengths or shortcomings of both Barack Obama and John McCain in other areas that are important to Americans.

Thanks for reading.


Matt said...

What an awesome message, Matt. You are right, it doesn't matter as much who performed the act of kindness, as much as the thought that there really are tons of people out there who feel this way but perhaps do not have the means to be able to provide for the soldiers, so their support, prayers and thanks are payment enough. I know the soldiers expect no more than that for their sacrifices.

Also, I believe many people feel this way but are hesitant to express themselves in this manner because of the back-lash they are likely to receive from those who choose (for some unknown reason) to blame our brave soldiers for the mess in Iraq. We have been deluged in recent years by those who do not support our military and who chastise those of us who do. It is high time we take our country back from these traitors and show our brave soldiers that their sacrifices are not being made in vain, and are truly appreciated.

Thanks for this terrific reminder!!

November 01, 2008 11:54 AM
Beth said...

Great post! My husband was deployed in the Middle East back in 2006 until 2007. It was hard, but I know their command/unit went there for a purpose. It was hard , but I know it's for the good of his beloved country. It just makes me sad that there are so many American who hates this country.

They hate Bush for the war in Iraq. They hated him because a lot of people died during the war. Perhaps they didn't know that since the beginning of time, people died defending his country or tribe. I believe having a strong Military makes a country stronger.

November 01, 2008 12:42 PM
jena isle said...

I've read your article and I salute too these American soldiers fighting for democracy. My nephew is one of them in Iraq. However, I have read Durano's article about McCain and now I begin to wonder. You can read the article in this URL and judge for yourself:

I hope the American electorate would vote for the correct candidate. Good luck and God bless!

November 01, 2008 2:59 PM
hope said...

You know the best thing about you Matt? You care. And you don't mind showing it. Nice post. Thanks!

November 01, 2008 3:14 PM
tashabud said...

Excellent post, Matt. I admire you for taking the position you're taking in this election year. This post is a great tribute to our heroes. I got a little choked up, reading it. Thank you for your bravery in posting it because your message needs to be read by many.


November 01, 2008 4:07 PM
Margaret said...

I got this same email and was thinking about doing a post on it. Now I'll just direct them over here.

My son is in the Navy and he has been to Iraq and may go back again soon. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who believes that his service is valuable and worthy.


November 01, 2008 5:48 PM said...

Great post, Matt.

During the Gulf War/Desert Storm, I was in college. I tried to join the Marines, but was disqualified due to my hearing loss from birth.

I have always admired those who serve in our military. Regardless of your political persuasion, these men and women should be treated with the utmost of respect.

November 01, 2008 6:38 PM
Anna said...

That is one of my favorite emails, too. I don't care if it's true or not, it's the message that matters. People sometimes forget that our armed forces are volunteer. These men and women put their lives on the line because to many of them, it's all about honor and country!

November 01, 2008 7:28 PM
Rambler said...

Great post Matt - you really nailed it. McCain does understand that kind of honor and between the two of them, he is what our country needs at this time.

November 02, 2008 12:55 AM
Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Awesome post. I loved it. Have a great day. :)

November 02, 2008 6:15 PM
Anonymous said...

Let me take a different view on this story. I think it is a wonderful story about a man showing respect to our service men and women. However, I believe it is ruined by the divisive partisan politics that is destroying our county. As I thought about the story I remembered how Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. He notes that everyone loves their friends. The hero of this story is a good example of this. He shows kindness and respect to people who are like him, who are serving our country and whose debt we can never fully repay. Yet Jesus asks us to do much more. He asks us to love our enemies, to love the people who are not like us, to love the people who are not even deserving of our love. It is my belief that Sen. Obama represents these Christian ideals. It is my belief that Sen. Obama is suited to serve our country as our next President.

So, honoring our Lord’s words, I pray for both candidates that they and their supporters might rise above this ungodly vilification of their opponents and work together to server all Americans, not only those who serve in our military, not only those who are our friends or are like us, but all Americans.

May God truly bless America.

November 03, 2008 6:46 AM said...

Hey Matt - great post! It's such a touching story - it made me tear up. And I couldn't agree more with your point. John McCain is by far the best choice for President. I wish everyone agreed on that point but unfortunately they don't.

November 03, 2008 4:58 PM
Bill Baumgartner said...

Hi Matt,

Great post!
I have two sons in the Navy, both of whom have served in Iraq.

I am blessed that they both returned home safe.

I am so grateful to them and to all that serve our country, those who protect our freedom.

Thank you for reminding me, and all your readers, of our debt of graditude that we owe to these fine men and women.


November 05, 2008 9:40 PM
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