After all the family dinners, celebrations and farewells, the day of departure had finally arrived. My son, a Corona del Sol and ASU graduate and now a U.S. Marine, packed his bags for a three-year stint stationed in Okinawa, thousands of miles from home.
I dashed from the Wrangler News office and headed to my car for the noontime airport run. One of the perks our employees enjoy is the ease—at least most days—of driving to such places as home, assignments and, of course, Sky Harbor Airport.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, on the afternoon we needed to get to the airport on time, all traffic at the intersection of Ray and Rural had come to a complete standstill as I made my way home.
With a green light ahead of me, I couldn’t imagine why none of us were, at the very least, inching forward. I strained to look ahead. No accident. No emergency vehicles.
Then I saw him: an older gentleman with a small shopping basket, attempting to cross the eight-lane roadway, taking ponderously slow steps. He had barely made it to the halfway point before the light changed.
That’s when a man in a dark, oversized pickup truck pulled into the crosswalk and stopped his vehicle. He got out, walked up to the stranded pedestrian and began to escort him across the street.
No one honked a horn as the two gradually, painstakingly made their way across Ray Road. As I drove away from the scene I thought to myself that the pickup driver had put himself—and his vehicle—in no small danger. Car-versus- pedestrian seldom has a happy ending for anyone.
With my thoughts now back to my soon-to-be Okinawa-bound son Johnny, the little drama I had just seen unfold somehow let me see the bigger picture: a caring person demonstrating in the finest way the ideals of military service.
Someone willing to step into harm’s way, voluntarily, to serve and protect the innocent and vulnerable, the weak and infirm—children and parents and everyday people who want to enjoy their freedom in peace.
None of it is convenient. The danger is real.
At a time when the term toxic masculinity is being hurled about, this unknown man demonstrated precisely the kind of compassion mixed with courage our world so desperately needs. Here in our community, thankfully, it’s not such a rare quality.
When Johnny picked up his rucksack and got in the car that afternoon, I held back tears of both sorrow and pride.
We don’t know when we’ll see him next. We don’t know where he’ll deploy to from Japan. We don’t know so many things about what the next three years hold for us as a family.
But what we do know is this: Our country needs people willing to step forward and help defend the ideals that made the U.S. a bastion of liberty; it requires citizens who are unafraid to step outside their cozy universe and take risks on behalf of the defenseless.
To our military men and women, as well as those like the man in the pickup truck who help make this a better, safer place to live, we offer our salute. And, of course, say thank you.