An Encounter with a US Veteran


The United States recently commemorated the Vietnam Veterans Day across the nation. Just the day before Vietnam Veterans Day, simply by chance, I encountered a US Veteran in California. It just got me thinking that we seem to be losing the art of face to face communication – meeting strangers and just having a conversation with them. In this high tech world I wonder if people are just not talking to each other – wherever I look people are on their cell phones, texting each other or on a laptop, people don’t seem to have the time to talk to one another.


This wasn’t the case when I encountered the US veteran at a McDonald’s restaurant. I don’t think he had served in the Vietnam War, but I sensed he had been through wars. They appeared to be external and internal wars, even a battlefield of the mind.  He was waiting by the side of the queue. He was joking with the gentleman in front of me. He wasn’t asking for any money. When we made eye contact he asked me if I would be willing to get him a buy one get one free big mac. I told him forget about the Big Mac I would be only too glad to get him a meal. When we got to the counter, the assistant gave us the free Big Mac anyway – now that was a blessing. He told me I’ll come and sit with you. And so I sat with a total stranger, we had a meal together in a McDonalds Restaurant. He was a man of compassion, he was soft spoken.

He told me he was a US Veteran, ex-special forces. He had been through some tough times and now he was going through a really rough time. He told me that he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  Back in the days of World War 1 and World War 2 they used to call it ‘shell shock.’ He had experienced trauma, maybe it was on the battlefield – it had affected him, mentally, physically, psychologically – there was internal pain of mind, body and heart.


What he missed most was his service dog. Someone had stolen his dog and he dearly missed him. But he had hope. What he did have was his Bible on him. He knew the scriptures. We sat down and we talked. He opened his Bible at McDonalds and read from the scriptures – verses which gave him hope and comfort through the storms of life. I asked him if I could pray with him. We did and he wept.

I so felt the love of His Heavenly Father upon this stranger. He said he wanted to visit Israel. I said stay in faith because I believe God answers prayer. I thanked him for his service to this great country. I thanked him for his willingness to defend the freedoms of a grateful nation, in order that others may live. At the end he smiled and he blessed my family and my son. That blessing meant a lot, a blessing from a stranger.


Ivan Corea

Photographs courtesy of Pexels and Pixaby.