quidni pro quo

Random musings at random intervals. Erudition not guaranteed.

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Location: El Paso area, Texas, United States

I'm a 40-something Christian, conservative, pro-life, Constitutionalist, motorcycle-riding, pick-up truck driving, wife, mother, state employee, ham radio operator and part-time college student, enlisted in the Texas State Guard. Everything else is subject to revision without notice.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Shoulders

Of all the things I really like about my job, I especially enjoy helping the veterans who come to our office. If we’re not really busy, sometimes I’ll ask a question like, “Where did you serve?” and spend a happy minute or three listening to the answer. It startles some vets – as if they’re not accustomed to having a stranger be genuinely interested in them and their service. I’ve asked to shake their hand, as well – and it makes me feel good inside to see an elderly man, who may have shuffled in bent over a walker with an oxygen tank, walk a bit straighter on his way out because someone said “Thank you!”

Something I’ve noticed about veterans – it doesn’t matter if they’re younger or older, still active duty or long since retired, male or female, healthy or not – if they took any pride at all in their service, they walk with their shoulders as square as their health will allow. Even those who “did their four” years ago, and have been a civilian for many years since. Their spine may be bent from injury, or arthritis, or just plain old age, but their shoulders are still squared off, declaring their years of training and service. And it’s not quite the same posture you see in someone who works out a lot, but has never been in the military. I’m not sure how to properly describe it; it may be an attitude thing.

They’re also some of the most polite folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of helping. They listen when I show them the paperwork, they ask intelligent questions, and do their best to make sure they have what they need, in order to provide what I need, so that I can help them. It’s kinda odd sometimes, getting a deferential “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” from folks who saw combat when I was still in frilly dresses and saddle shoes. (It also makes me feel a bit odd when the veteran is young enough to be my son or daughter... naw, I’m not getting older.)

I’ve made a game of it with myself, trying to identify which of my customers are vets by the way they walk and talk. I’m getting better at it, too.

A couple weeks ago, two young men (late twenties, early thirties, maybe) walked in. Only one of them needed assistance; the other was a friend along for the ride. Both of them were in jeans and sneakers, and while neither had long hair, their hair wasn't cut particularly short, either. While helping this young man, I asked for his ID. While looking down at the paperwork I was starting, I mentioned that his driver license would be better than his military ID as I didn’t want to use his SSN for ID purposes. He thanked me, tucked back the card he’d almost pulled out of his wallet, and pulled out his license instead, while his friend just looked at me with surprise. “How’d you know he was army?”

“Shoulders,” I answered.

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