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Anonymous Gift

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Matthew Wunderlin
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
MADISON, Wis. -- I never asked her name. When she bought our lunch she intended for it to be anonymous appreciation. If it weren't for our waitress pointing her out she would have succeeded. Even the people at her table didn't know she paid for our meal until we came over to thank her.

The flowers and drinks at her table indicated that her group of about 20 was at the restaurant to celebrate. It never crossed my mind that anyone was going to celebrate us.

We were there for a quick bite after a long morning of training in Milwaukee. Losing ourselves in conversation we forgot we were even wearing our uniforms. But she noticed.

But why us? She didn't know us. She didn't know if we had anything in common. She didn't know if she had similar political beliefs. She didn't know if she shared any of our experiences, whether joy or pain.

Even the four of us have very different tastes, backgrounds and beliefs; but, we are united by a common uniform that is bigger than all our differences.

In noticing she didn't care about differences. She cared about what we share. All people who wear the military uniform make sacrifices. Some sacrifice far more than others.

She wasn't thanking four guys grabbing lunch. She was thanking everyone who wears a military uniform for the sacrifices made on her behalf in the only way she knew how, by picking up the tab for four anonymous military personnel.

When we went over to her table to show our gratitude, conversation around us stopped. Some were impressed by her act. At least one woman's eyes swelled with tears. There were handshakes and hugs. Somehow this moment was bigger than all of us.

It's easy to get lost in the uniform and forget why we do what we do. It's easy to get lost in rules and regulations and forget we are doing this so 300 million people can sleep in peace tonight. It's easy to get lost in a day of training and forget we are doing this so moms and neighbors and random people in restaurants can live their lives without worrying about how to keep their liberties.

Those liberties were preserved for us by anonymous people making sacrifices long ago. It is odd to think that someday our sacrifices will be talked about as happening long ago.

Maybe it was a good thing we didn't ask her name. As we represented all the military to her, so she represents all that is good in America to us.

I hope that somehow she can see this article and hear me say on behalf of all of us, "You're welcome. You're worth it America."