A Sailor Wrecks My Indifference

Life-Changing Event wasn’t my plan that morning. We had no plans. But the USS Intrepid had a plane with shark teeth, my 4-year-old daughter was in a “shark phase” and that’s how we found ourselves on a flight deck.

Sofia (the 4-year-old) wanted to leave immediately because flight decks are hot. On August 16, 2009, a sweltering NYC day made it “super hot.” Instead, I took her to the air-conditioned lower deck.  One exhibit had a film playing about the ship. We had missed most of it, so I pulled her away. But with pre-K mega-strength, she dragged me back.

The Sailor

I stood there watching black and white footage of the ship being attacked. I sensed the man to my right moving closer. I turned towards him and he said, “I was there that day. I was there.” Then he turned back to the screen and stared intently. He was an elderly gentleman wearing ID badges that said Former Crew Member and Plank Owner.

When the film ended, he walked away to talk to a few people. At that point, I had no idea that walking up to someone in the military and personally thanking them was something people did. I didn’t know anyone in the military. I never ran into troops. But I said to Sofia, “do you see that man over there? He did something brave on this ship that helped protect us. I want you to go say thank you”


Sofia started buzzing around the group trying to get this Sailor’s attention. He kept talking to the adults. I thought to myself that this was a mistake. Retract!! Retract!!

But after a few long minutes he finally said very loudly and with mock exasperation, “Yes, little girl…what can I do for you?” Just as loudly, Sofia replied, “Thank you for being brave on the boat! I like your boat!!!”

Everyone stopped talking. His eyes filled with tears. His wife became teary. So did the others with them. I walked over to see what was wrong and his wife said to me under her breath, “Thank you for her words. You have no idea how much they mean. This is the last time he can visit the ship. This is his last time here.”

Then It Hit Me

As we walked away I started thinking about my Mom. She’s from the Philippines and if it wasn’t for American G.I.s, she might not be here, then I wouldn’t be here and Sofia wouldn’t be here. And I don’t remember thanking a single one of those thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen.

So that night I went home, did some research, and adopted a U.S. Soldier who was deployed to the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. I never imagined where that first step would lead me.

My adopted soldier's Combat Outpost in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan

My adopted soldier’s combat outpost in the mountains of Afghanistan.

© Gina left the mall, 2012

19 thoughts on “A Sailor Wrecks My Indifference

  1. You should be thrilled, you have helped so many of us remember what our Soldiers are doing to help us. God Bless you and our Soldiers.

  2. Judy, thank you for the kind words. I’m absolutely thrilled. And not just for the Deployed Soldier, but for the positive ripple effect I know will happen in the Adopter’s world. The Adopter’s friends and family will start caring too. That’s a win. Then some of them will take action. And so on.

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  4. Kids. The beattitudes. Happy are the utterly sincere, for they shall see God. I think it was God that said that. Whatever. Works for me. Same thing with my previous volunteer work with Vets. My daughter went right up to a couple of homeless vets, looked like they just fell off the frieght train, and asked, “Were you in the war with my daddy?” I swear he stood up straighter, pulled in his stomach, checked his gig line and answered, “Yes. I was”.

    I often wonder what would happen if a million of us did that.

    • Richard,
      Thank you for your service. And I thank both and your daughter for helping homeless vets. I love that she could see the men for who they really are and not define them by their situation. Love that they got the gift of her honest and spontaneous viewpoint- of course you are brave and worthy of respect, just like my daddy. I bet her words made him stand taller. And if we times that moment by a million? The impact would be nothing short of amazing.

  5. Ma’am,

    You are nothing short of extraordinary. I had a few CoJ pen pals on my last deployment, and it was a thrill to get an email or card specifically for me during mail call. Mark Twain could live months on a good compliment, but I lived to read a sincere note from strangers telling me they were praying for me. The coffee wasn’t bad, either!

    Thank you so much for what you’ve done.
    Chief Petty Officer Ron McKenzie, USN
    ’07 Iraq & ’10 Iraq vet

    • Chief McKenzie,

      Thank you for your service. After all I’ve learned from my adopted soldier, pen pals and military families, I have a slightly different idea about who is extraordinary in this scenario 🙂 But I thank you for your kind words.

      There is something both lovely and humbling to realize how easily we can make a difference for one another. I’m happy you had people make that difference for you.


    • Hi Chief Petty Officer Ron McKenzie, my name is Kyndal. I read your post here on Gina’s blog, and I saw where you said that it was a thrill to get an email or card specially for you during mail call. I am a big fan, and a big supporter and prayer warrior of the brave men and women in uniform! My most favorite thing to get to do, is to get to tell the brave men in women in uniform “Thank You” for their wonderful service to our country. I hope you won’t mind, I would just like to tell you from the bottom of my heart, “Thank You” for your wonderful service to our country, your service to our country is very much appreciated!!

    • Hi cheif Petty Officer Ron McKenzie, my name is Kyndal. I saw that you were in the Navy. I saw in your comment that you were in Iraq and I saw that you are an Iraq vet. Hope you won’t mind if I tell you this, I would just like to tell you “Thank You” for your wonderful service to our country, your service to our country is very much appreciated!!

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