A homecoming gift for Afghan vets

July 17, 2011

I'm writing to let you know what happened to me and 14 of my fellow soldiers on our way back home from Afghanistan. We landed at BWI Wednesday in hopes of getting a direct flight to Atlanta, but none were available. With a bit of a wait ahead of us, we decided to go to the only place open we could find, a DuClaw Brewing Co. restaurant.

We all sat down and had a meal that was about a year overdue. Our waitress, Liz, was very kind, and they kept the place open until we were done.

Afterward, I got up to go make a phone call, and en route a man stopped me and asked where we were coming from. I told him we were just back from a year in Afghanistan. When he said it must be nice to be back, I smiled and said, "you have no idea."

Then we parted, but when I came back from using the phone I saw the same man talking to Liz. I asked the guys what was going on; they had no idea. A few minutes later, Liz and the man walked over to our table and told us that he had paid for all our meals. He said it was his way of thanking us for keeping him safe.

We all got up, shook his hand and thanked him for his kindness. I wanted to let you know this because it is nice to know that there are people out there that appreciate what we do. It was a great welcome home present.

John Russell Smalley

The writer is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Rangers.

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