Truth or Legend – Does It Really Matter!

I recently received an e-mail containing a very touching story. It came from a close friend of mine who had received it from his uncle. As soon as I started reading it, I recognized it as a favorite I read several times before. Upon completion, I realized why it had become one of my favorites. It was a great “feel-good” story that always brightens one’s day.

Later that evening I passed it on to another friend to enjoy. I quickly received a note back explaining that while he enjoyed it as well, he had learned via the Internet that this story was an urban legend. It was such a great story that I decided to look into it.

I went to … officially the Urban Legends Reference Pages. This is a web site that discusses urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of uncertain origin. It receives about 300,000 hits per day. It’s been around since 2005 and has a pretty good record of tracing the origins of most anything you might find online.

Within a few minutes, I learned that this story has appeared under several titles including “Just Lunch,” “Act of Kindness,” “The Sack Lunches,” and “An Unforgettable Flight.” Their research discovered that the story has been circulating since August 2008 and has been published in a number of magazines. There has apparently been a couple of versions telling the story with both a religious message as well as an attempt of simple appreciation for our military.

The story is attributed to an author living in Wood Dale, Illinois, but they have yet to be able to locate him.

I guess my personal feeling is simple. I don’t care if it’s true. It’s a very touching story of what I would like to believe is true of any citizen living in this terrific country. It made me feel good, hopeful, and appreciative. In this day and age, what more could one ask for? See what you think by reading it below. If you share my appreciation of a heart-warming story, pass it on. I can’t think of too many people who couldn’t use a “feel-good” story today. Enjoy.

The Sack Lunches

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. “I’m glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,” I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.

“Where are you headed?” I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.

“Petawawa, we’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we’re being deployed to Afghanistan.”

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time …

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. “No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base.”

His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty-dollar bill. “Take a lunch to all those soldiers.” She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. “My son was a soldier in Iraq; it’s almost like you are doing it for him.”

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, “Which do you like best—beef or chicken?”

“Chicken,” I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.

“This is your thanks.”

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room.

A man stopped me. “I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.” He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked. I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, “I want to shake your hand.” Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, “I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.” I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base.

I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. “It will take you some time to reach the base … It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.”

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little …

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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