October 06, 2006

Posting date: 10/8/06
: Army Girl
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog url:

There's something that's been weighing on my mind recently. On my way back from leave, in the airport in Atlanta, the airlines directed me towards the VIP section, where they check your bags and send you through the metal detectors. I picked an off-time to go through the line to the gates and found myself the only soldier among a great number of business travelers. A gentleman next to me asked me a few questions about where I was going, and if I was regular Army or Reserve. I answered his questions but made it a point to let him know that I had volunteered for this tour and I wasn't one of the Reserve soldiers he had to feel sympathetic towards. I didn't get called up. I chose to go.

He thanked me a few times for my service and I said the inadequate "Thank you" over and over again. After the seconds began to creep by in slow motion, the line finally began to move. The man reached out his hand and said, "At least let me buy your last dinner before you go back." A million things went through my head. I really wanted to be alone and not talk to anyone. I didn't want to answer any questions and I was worried that he may have ulterior motives. Was he a reporter? Was he hitting on me? Was he just curious about the state of affairs in AF?

I shook his hand, and in his palm I felt paper. I looked down and saw that he'd given me $10. I attempted to explain profusely that I couldn't accept his money, and that I was very flattered but I just couldn't allow him to do that. He kept telling me to take it, and finally said, "Please, don't insult me…" and walked away.

I felt humiliated and embarrassed. I wasn't there for charity. I don't serve in the military to get freebies. I know my face turned bright red and I just kept my head down after that. I walked to the train, and scanned the crowd for him. I saw him amidst the other passengers but didn't want to confront him again in front of a group of people. The train was packed. He got off at the terminal before mine, and as he walked off the train he said, "Come back to us, safe and sound. Take care of yourself, soldier."

Moments later, I searched for my gate and found the nearest ladies' room. I pulled the bill out of my pocket and saw that it was not $10. It was a $100 bill. My mouth dropped. I could not believe that man had given me $100! I certainly didn't need that much for dinner at the airport! I was overcome with a sense of shame and wonder. Ashamed that I still had the money and wasn't able to give it back, and yet I wondered why, who and what the heck?!

So I still have the $100. Today, I spoke with the JAG office (Judge Advocate General) and they told me to document the incident and I would be okay. I'm going to do that, then donate the money to the Army Emergency Relief Fund. It's an organization that assists soldiers and their families in time of need. I wish I could keep it forever because of what it symbolizes to me. But I know it will be worth more as food on a soldier's table or diapers for an Army baby. I've never had to use AER funds, but I know of soldiers who have.


I grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, home of the Pine Bluff Arsenal. We always had military guys in uniform around town. My grandfather used to take me out to lunch sometimes, and I felt special when he did. Whenever someone in uniform was in the restaurant, he always paid their tab anonymously. ALWAYS. This was a very racist man, yet he did it for black and white servicemen (I don't remember women). Trust me, he didn't feel like he was insulting anyone. He had served in WWI, his son in WWII, his son-in-law (my father) in Korea. It's just about honoring your service. Everyone, absolutely everyone, recognizes that you are making tremendous personal sacrifices to serve us. We want to say thanks. That's all it is.

The $100 to the business traveler might mean next to nothing. He suspects it might mean an extra couple DVDs or whatever keeps you sane. Please allow us to say thanks. I have had soldiers in the Atlanta airport refuse to allow me to buy their drinks... I don't understand. In the future, I'll do it my grandfather's way - anonymously. And understand that it's only a grateful citizen saying thanks. Whether or not we agree with your mission is beside the point. You put your ass on the line for me and I want to say thanks. That's it. Not hitting on you, don't want to buy a dinner companion. Just thanks.


Army Girl, While your humiliation and embarrasment is understandable, it is unnecessary. People find different ways to say 'Thank you'and show appreciation and respect. Sometimes the recipient has to be as generous as the giver. Your contribution of the $100 and your service is laudable. Thank you.

Larry Stafford

I totally agree with Doug, Jacquie and Larry. Thanks for the words to read and most of all for your contribution. My little girl served during Clinton. She would've been confused too I think. I still have the nylon stockings in my shoe shine kit she used to shine her shoes with. She swore by the secret capability of them...

I'm sure Soldier Girl did feel embarassed that someone would give her money just for doing her job. But understand that the person who did it felt awkward and possibily guilty about all the sacrtifices we ask soldiers to make and tried to express up those feelings with cash. It wasn't the right thing to do but may have been the only thing he could think to do.

Army Girl: Some of us are very proud of the men and women who have served and are serving overseas. Each of us finds a way to show our appreciation -- a hundred dollar bill, a standing ovation as you walk through the airport, a firm handshake and thank you, or just a prayer each time we see a soldier returning home or shipping out at the airport. Allow us this, and know it's not to embarrass a soldier but to show our support.

This is a response to Army Girl, who was embarrassed by someone giving her $100 for dinner: donating it was the right thing to do, ma'am, but don't feel embarrassed or insulted -- the guy was probably trying, somehow, to take part in what you're doing. As a typical American civilian, he's not been asked by his country to actually do anything in this war on terror -- he's been given tax cuts, urged to go spend money, but that's it.And there you are, going off to get shot at.

Trust me, a lot of us don't like this situation, are frustrated that people like you have to go off (even if you do volunteer) and wonder, if this is such a huge struggle, why we aren't being asked to do more.

So, thanks, and be careful over there.

Brings back memories, from both perspectives. I remember my first deployment to VN; all I wanted was to be left the hell alone. Much later, after my retirement, I passed $100 to a young airman whom I knew needed it for his family. I think I embarrassed him but he thanked me with tears in his eyes. We became, and remain, fast friends. Don't guess this helps but, there it is.

Hey, girl, you aren't alone. Sometimes all that support and kindness is just what you DON'T need. And there's nothing wrong at all with just wanting to be alone, nothing odd about it, nothing unusual about it. I felt the way you did returning from Gulf War 1.0 in 1991. And even though it feels pretty crappy, maybe it will help to know that others have been through the same thing.

I was touched by your posting about the anonymous person who handed you $100. My father was a B-17 pilot in WWII. He told me that, when he was in uniform, folks were always offering to buy him a meal, beer, etc... He always tried to extend the same thanks and hospitality to any soldier whom he was lucky enough to meet. I served in Vietnam and found exactly the same thing happened to me. Forget all the crap you read about how soldiers were treated during Vietnam. No matter where I was in our great country (North, South, East or West), as long as I was in uniform, I had a tough time not insulting strangers who wanted to buy me a meal or a beer just to say thanks and to show their appreciation -- certainly not for me personally, but for the what the uniform represented, has always represented. My father raised me right and I try to do the same. So, if I do run into you in some airport, I'll say thanks and shake your hand; if I see you in a restaurant, I'll anonymously pick up your check. Please don't be insulted or shamed...but, someday after you've separated, just find your own way to say thanks to a next generation soldier who is putting it on the line the way my father did and the way you are.

Thanks....and pass it on.

Hi Army Girl, I'm an "old" Army boy now. I flew UH-1D's in Vietnam in 1967 and came home in a body cast. I also try anytime I can to do what your passing fellow citizen did. I've re-read my letters from home from way back then and know that you are underpaid for your Service regardless of whatever pay grade you are at. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, and maybe next time just remember it might be someone who is NOT paying for prior "sins" but just someone who has indeed walked in your boots. Take care.

Relax, the folks treated all military like that in the '50's. I was stationed at Great Lakes and my money was no good in Milwaukee. I even got invited home by strangers for dinner with their family. That all went away during 'Nam. Glad to see it back.

Army Girl at least did a lot to deserve the embarrassment of riches that burden her (that is, the thanks in whatever form for brave service).

By contrast, the mix of thanks, sympathy, congrats, pity and much more that I get, I don't deserve. I just was by the World Trade Center as usual on 9/11. I still work downtown in NYC. Tourists abound, and people strike up conversation. Most realize I'm just a guy, but some feel they need to show me signs of support.

I now have a sense of why. What I think I have in common with ArmyGirl is that the people who do this to/for me are those who feel helpless. They need to share the burden of those who underwent, or will undergo, the hardship, because they feel it is, rightly, for all of America to carry.

After five years, I realize that I owe them something: I owe them my ear, at least, so they can make their contribution in whatever small or even inappropriate way may be open to them.

True, there's a time and a place for everything, and the day of the flight may be too much to ask. But I hope that in the coming months and years ArmyGirl will stay strong enough to allow citizens in need to make their statement or their gift however they can.

I am an Army Infantry Veteran. I flew from Dallas to Washington D.C. this October, and it'd been a while since I'd flown. The number of troops in battle dress uniform surprised me. I had long layovers and took the chance to talk to many of them. I ate a dinner at an airport restaraunt going both ways and I stopped a waitress each time and told her to give me the check for soldiers sitting nearby. I got away with it twice, but got tracked down the third time I paid. My explanation was that I was an old disabled sergeant and I'd do the same thing in uniform because it was my job to take care of my troops at all times. I don't command troops anymore so I feel compelled to do so with the nearest available soldier. "Support the Troops" is a great slogan, but I choose to literally put my money where my mouth is. Maybe it's the guilt I feel that I'm not allowed to do my part in uniform. I'm too old and slow now and would only get in the way, but still it eats at me. I agree that a cash gift is a little much, and I applaud your decision to donate it. You just did the same thing I would have, and prove that there is a prevailing sense of honor in our military. Some day when you're are an old veteran, you'll get the same notion to buy a trooper a meal as a simple and comforting thank you. Keep your head down and come back home. We'll be here to welcome you back.

Times have changed since I walked down that terminal at LAX, to be PCS'd to my first duty station in UK. Didn't know anyone, wondering around lost, and the only person (a lady in her early 30s) who would give me the time of day, spitted on my dress blues and called me a "baby killer". I finally found the USO there, cleaned up, bought a warm soda and looked at the others there. No one talked, didn't even look at each other. We were lost, tired, and even scared. Being humilated would have been a warmer welcome back then. I did carry a weapon and watch the fences for "Reds", ragheads, and those damn looters, but I never forgot that woman and what she said. Wrong place and time for me, but I survived and served with my honor, somewhat, intact. A hand shake, a smile would have been nice for those troopers in that airport long ago.

Army Girl, We have come along way in supporting our troops in the stuggles today. Enjoy, smile back, give thanks and a "you're welcome" or two. The minority forgets quickly and turns on you quicker than a Backstab merchant selling beads. The people like you today, give thanks, and support you. It will mean a lot to you and others later in the field.

First, thank you for your service, Army Girl. You have my deepest support as do all of the women and men in our uniformed services. I recently saw a Staff Sgt with a combat patch on, and fresh overseas medals, eating with her family. She was with her husband and two daughters. I was able to quietly call the waitress over and make sure that I got the check. I must have taken too long to look at the ribbons, when I looked at her uniform. I heard the waitress tell her that their check was taken care of. As I was leaving, one of the Sgt's two young daughters just kind of stared at me, and the Sgt. smiled. The thought of her leaving her children to defend our nation somehow made my 19 months in Vietnam seem like a small gesture by comparison.

There are times when I can't speak because of the emotion that I feel. At those moments, paying for a meal may be the best that I can do. It may be difficult for you to accept our gratitude, but please understand that it is heartfealt. Even people who are dramatically opposed to the war know enough to realize that it is our citizens that are defending us as they are asked to do. I am proud to know young people like you, today, in this war, just as I was then in "my war".

My thoughts and prayers go with you. Be safe.

I passed through Shannon (Ireland) airport a number of years ago. Departing from my plane from NY, I saw a large group of American GI's in another area through large windows. Military flights from the middle east stopped at Shannon for refueling in those days--I don't know if they still do. I couldn't get to them (I was in a customs area) to shake hands or buy them anything, but I did wave and flash the V for victory sign and they waved back.

Two years ago I was driving to FL about this time of year and stopped for breakfast in a Pancake House restaurant (a grease pit by the way) I sat down and ordered my meal and looked out the window. There was a sign there that read "Camp Lejeune main gate straight ahead"--I realised only then that I was in Jacksonville, NC. I looked around and saw two young guys in civies with white sidewall haircuts and cowboy boots. I asked the waitress if they were Marines--she went over and asked and told me that they were. I told her to bring me thier checks which she did. When they asked for the check she told them that it was taken care of. As I was leaving I went over and shook hands with them and wished them good luck--they thanked me.

I have been agains this stupid war from day one. It was started by a smirking dunce who's record consists of having been a cheerleader, a draft dodger, a deserter, a poseur with Ken doll flight suit and "Mission Acomplished " banner and most recently a abettor of child molesters.

I support our good service men and women who serve and defend us (I served between the Korean war and the Vietnam war). I hate that their lives, limbs, eyes brains are being wasted in this morass by an uncaring fool who has been quoted as saying that he will keep this stupid war going on even if the only ones supporting it are his wife and dog. God bless our troops.

I am another retired veteran. I live near Ft. Meade and BWI. I do the exact same thing at times, when I can. I wish I could do $100, often it's just $5 or $10.

When I was going to the "sand-box" or "the box" BWI was my last bit of "civilian life." Heck, back when I was getting stationed in Korea in the 80s and 90s and flying out of SFO, there would ALWAYS be at least one older man (although once it was a slightly older woman) that said "Thank-you for your service" and passed a bill into my palm.

I found out that my own Dad, a Korean War Era Vet, did the same thing on his many travels. My DH has, I have, most of my fellow retired "old farts" have done it. It is NOT charity, it is not a bribe, and Lord knows, it ain't an unearned "freebie."

It is a "gift" from one veteran, or loved one of a veteran, to someone still serving. That "we know" and "we care." Many of us had the exact same happen, often at a time with being the the military "was not cool."

We are "paying back" and now you can "pay it forward." Often the money pays for a "real meal" and not a candy bar and soda. Other times, you can "help" out that person next to you in a crisis.

Waiting in a USO lounge, We all chipped in once to help someone on Emergency leave to make it home...

Some call it "karma" others "what goes around comes around." Doing what you did, a donation to the Relief Fund is perfect!

God Speed!

Hi Army Girl,
I must reiterate some of the previous comments. I served in peace time (1982-85). There are times I feel the need to do more than simply fly my flag. If I reach out to a soldier it is in the spirit of brotherhood and support, nothing else. Take care. You and the rest of the warriors are in my prayers.

I just want to say thank you so much for having posted this. People need to hear real experiences like yours. I know that someone giving you money can be a little offensive sometimes, but I used to work as a waitress and would sometimes receive big tips. For me the money never really mattered so I would give more to the bus boy. The reward of knowing that I really helped someone, made me feel good. I hope that makes some kind of sense.

I now work for the GREAT organization you mention in your blog, and enjoy my job everyday! Even after spending most of the day hearing upsetting stories from our soldiers; how things are going bad back home, while they are overseas serving our country. I'm glad we (Army) have people like your JAG officer keeping AER in mind, hopefully for good and those bad times.

Thank you once again for sharing your experience and feelings. I appreciate it.

Thanks for your service. Money can't begin to repay the price you've paid.

I just want you to come home alive and unhurt - to live the Dream we all hope for.

Thank You.

Army Girl - take this into consideration. That bloke might be someone very much in the same shoes as I am. Wanting very intensely to be able to serve and yet not being able to do so. I'm about to hit my 40th birthday and even despite that, I'm hard of hearing and therefore... I cannot serve.

Even today - if given a waiver of age and hearing - I'd sign the dotted line faster than an F-15 hitting its afterburners.

But I can't... so that chap could very well be someone like me who is constrained to only being able to exercise a small gesture of thanks... a gesture of saying "I wish it was me over there instead of you"...

Your donation is a superb example of why so many of you folks in the United States military are honoured folks.

Without you, we cannot be free. Without you, we cannot be safe.

You serve because so many of us desire to but cannot. You serve because you want to.

Allow us then to be able to NOT to pay you nor to give you charity... but to say 'thank you' in so many ways more than mere words could ever express.

Don't be embarressed, Ma'am, be proud... we sure as heck are...

Hi Army Girl,

Before you were born, I served my 3 years (1970-73) and never heard a word of thanks, which was typical of that time. Today, I hardly look like a comrade in arms to you youngsters I see in the airport, and I hardly know what to say or do to express my gratitude or . . . admiration. Maybe that's what was running through that guy's mind when he slipped you the $100 bill -- it was the only thing he could think of.

To you and all the other men/women serving: How do we show our appreciation? Often I read of those serving who comment that "Supporting the Troops" doesn't cut it. I agreed in that buying a two buck sticker doesn't get it. Especially the magnetic ones that can come right off when deemed unfashionable. (I tell people to glue it on.) How may we approach you without embarrassing either of us?

Army Girl,
I think that you did the right thing in donating the $100 to the AER, since you did not feel comfortable keeping the money. Your choice is commendable, as is your service to your country. I just want to reassure you, as others have, that the man was not insulting you, but trying in his own way to honor your service and sacrifices. My last boyfriend and current one are both in the military, while many of my friends and friends' spouses are too. I know how much a few dollars can mean to a soldier or his/her family when there are bills to pay and the main breadwinner is now deployed. I try to help as I can too, which sometimes means babysitting for free, sending some mail, or helping out with family support at the reserve center, but it is a little of what I can do besides take care of my loved ones. The man who gave you the $100 was doing the same, so appreciate the fact that someone cares...even if a stranger.

"To doubt the gift is to doubt the giver."

In other words, this person seemed to have honorable intentions. Please be thankful to the person's face, then do as you may with the money. If you don't personally need it, donate as you've indicated.

It speaks very well of your upbringing that you were embarrassed. People here at home want very much to express their respect and gratitude to our finest young people - the US military. In America, we do that (unfortunately) with money. I am glad at least that the American people will never again tolerate the treatment given to returning Vietnam troops. If the AER gets tired of taking these unsolicited "tips" then consider donating it to a Vietnam veterans organization. Glad to have you home. God bless you.

Army Girl: I was once told by a very wise old fella when I asked what I should do in a similar situation:"If it's freely given, it should be freely taken." No "Oh, I can't..." "Please, you must" tennis game. Instead, just a gracious thank you for the thank you -- because that's what the gift really meant.

And thank you.

Keep putting hot steel in thier hip pockets. Wish I was there to call in the atillary fire. I would need one spotting round and than it would be FFE or drop my pants and let you kiss my white ass goodbye baby

Army Girl, I dont know what it feels like to serve my country in the way in which you and thousands of soldiers do every day so as to why you felt embarrassed and ashamed is something that I cannot comprehend. However one thing that I do understand is that the choice you have made to serve allows me and millions of other Americans the ability to live in a way in which is only a dream to the vast majority of people around the world, and the only thing I know to do (and I am sure the individual who blessed you with the $100)is to say thanks, in our own way. I believe that was his way! Please dont feel embarrassed! For those of us that don't serve in the military we are forever indebted to soldiers such as yourself and thanksful for your service and contributions. My prayers or with you and your fellow soldiers! God Bless, and stay safe!


That man did the correct thing.

You did the correct thing.

Don't spend a nanosecond feeling embarassed or guilty about what happened.

It's all good

The past weeks have been a whirlwind of events and although I check my email regularly, I have not had the opportunity to come by this site and actually read all of the comments posted here.

I had no idea! I've received countless emails over the past 10 or so days and many said what you have all said here.

I just want to say thank you.. again.. a thousand times over. Thanks for your words of support and for your understanding.

I have to admit a few of these comments made me teary eyed. Everything you have all said, will be in my heart and memory forever... and it will add to my motivation and drive to be the best soldier, leader and friend.. I can be.

Thank you.

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