Safe in the middle

Several years ago, I was traveling home from San Diego. I was in the middle seat of an emergency row. Not the worst seat, but not the best one either.

A middle-aged gentleman joined me, sitting in the aisle seat. I was sure that he had served in the military; he was trim, physically fit and well spoken. It was odd, he wore ear buds that he never put into his ears; and, he had a book in front of him that I could tell he was not reading. Rather than business attire, he wore comfortable clothes with black running shoes. While we greeted each other and settled down, he put a small fabric bag under the seat in front of us. Later I noticed that the flight attendants did not put a meal on his tray; he saw my surprise and told me that a “special meal” had been ordered for him. His “special meal” was different than “special meals” I had seen in the past, the kind prepared for dietary or religious restrictions. This “special meal” was the same as my non-“special meal” except that it had double portions. I smiled; I was pretty sure that I was in the company of an air marshal.

I turned my attention to the third member of our emergency row of seats.

In the window seat sat a very young man. I learned quickly that he had just graduated from Marine Recruit Training and was making a quick trip home to Louisiana. He carried a paper bag from McDonald’s and the aroma of French fries was intoxicating. Like the gentleman on the aisle, his lunch was a double portion but contained several thousand more calories. As soon as he sat down, the brand new Marine ate a couple of large hamburgers and a pile of fries and then he went straight to sleep. Later, after he awoke, we chatted a little about his training experience.  I asked him a simple question, “What did you learn that will surprise your family?” His answer was quick: “I learned that I can eat anything.” He went on to explain that he had always been a picky eater but after completing Marine Corps boot camp, he could eat anything cold, hot, cooked or raw. After this explanation, he asked the flight attendant for meal service. He quickly ate this second lunch and then fell fast asleep.

So, there I sat between two men of service.

  • One was hard and experienced, eating because his body needed nourishment and stamina. The other was young and inexperienced, concerned about little except for satisfying his own hunger.
  • One was already doing the job while the other would mature as he was taught by those with experience.
  • One stayed on watch while the other slept.
  • One would stand down in a few years while the other would advance from training to serving.

MarinesOn today, the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, I am grateful to live in the middle. I enjoy safety because some prepared their minds and bodies to serve and behind them others – the next generation – is preparing. One has maturity gained through discipline and training; the other has youthful enthusiasm ready to be channeled and developed.

I will sleep well tonight.


Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise? Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. (Psalm 106: 1-3)

  2 comments for “Safe in the middle

  1. Bill Sheffield
    November 11, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Thanks and Semper Fi

  2. Anji Gray
    November 16, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    What a great read!

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