Meeting WWII Heroes at the Grocery Store Cafe: Happy Memorial Day
Well, I've started hanging out at the HyVee Cafe about 30, 40, maybe even 50 years before I should, but I couldn't help it. A month ago as I pushed my empty grocery cart past the cafe those white, silver, and bald heads were calling to me. "Come, talk to me and hear my story. Learn about my life and the past. I have wisdom, laughter and love to share."
I paused at the cafe entrance staring and glancing around at the tables, wondering what tales were just waiting for me to enjoy, and learn from. A man in a booth by himself was having a polite conversation with the table next to him occupied by an elderly man and woman. He was dining on Chinese noodles in a styrofoam container while the other couple ate there Salisbury steak from the buffet.
I should go talk to him I thought. What! said my rational side. Would he mind me joining him at his booth and allow me to interview him? I checked my purse for paper and a pen. I had both. What was stopping me? Would he be a grumpy old man and think I was crazy and shoo me away?
I parked my cart by a table and nervously approached with my crumpled paper and a pen. "Hi ... I was wondering if I could interview you. I have a small blog that I write on the Internet and I would love to hear some of you stories and possibly share them with others. Would that be okay?"
"Anything, really. Were you in the war?"
"Yes, I served in the Army in the European theatre during the war, and he (gesturing to the gentlemen at the table next to him) served in the Navy in the South Pacific."
"Wow. I'd love to hear about that. What's your name?"
"I'm Claude, Jr., that's what people call me or just Junior."
I still hadn't had the courage to ask if I could sit down, but now that he was opening up I asked, "Do you mind if I have a seat so that I can write down what you are saying?"
"Sure, go ahead." He offered.
I had a lovely time getting to know Claude Jr., Charles, and Martha for the next 45 minutes. Both Junior and Charles served in World War II and shared some of their memories of the times and places. I admit, I don't choose to read many history books, but I loved talking to these two men. I listened, wrote a few notes, and thanked them for their time and service.
I visit their table every week now with my daughter before we get groceries. We say "hi" and have met a few more veterans through them. One man has even published his memoirs of his time in the Navy and gave me a copy. His name is Forest Clark McChesney, and he said he's been wearing this cap since 1942 when he joined the Navy.
As Memorial Day comes this weekend, remember to thank a veteran. They might be as near as your local grocery store.