As I see it, we can’t do enough to recognize the courageous actions of those who’ve served in the Army.
What we can do, though, is connect with them and their loved ones, give our support and pray that they stay safe on the job.
Sadly, lots of army vets suffer without emotional or financial support and can feel neglected.
When one older Army vet was out for a meal, he spied a group of men close to his table.
Lou Zezoff didn’t give it a second thought until the men came over to him one at a time, continually interrupting his dinner.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the diners noticed what was happening, as Vietnam vet Lou began to break down.
Retired Lou, 73, and his partner Annette are based in Illinois.
Recently, the couple decided to have dinner out together, so they headed to Cracker Barrel for what they thought was a relaxed, fun time. Lou, as always, was sporting a cap that read ‘US Navy Vietnam Veteran’.
On reaching the Cracker Barrel and sitting down, the vet spotted a group of five men seated close by.
He had no idea that they’d spied him too, and read his hat. They had plans for totally transforming his night out.
Annette and Lou ordered, and seeing this, the group got started. They were peacefully eating when the first of the group came across to their table.
Lou remembered: “I stood up”, bringing himself at eye-level with the stranger.
Then, the man stuck his hand out to say ‘thank you’ for Lou’s heroism.
This took Lou completely unaware—he hadn't expected this at all at what was supposed to be a quiet dinner.
He reckoned that was it until he realized the remaining men were also coming over to give their thanks.
“I knew they were military by their haircuts — high and tight,”the veteran recalled.
What he didn’t realize was that the whole group were Marines.
However, things didn’t end there.
When that first Marine went back to their seats, his friend stood and came across to the elderly couple. Again, Lou rose, with no idea what to expect.
This time, the second Marine expressed his gratitude, “I want to thank you for all five of us,” waving over at his friends.
Lou gave his thanks in turn for the recognition; the pair chatted for a little while.
Lou told them he hoped for the best with their careers, then went back to eating. He didn’t think much more into it.
However, soon after they had done eating, he asked for the bill.
On reaching the couple, the water had the check in hand and a huge grin to match, saying, “This is your lucky day.”
The five young men had paid for their meal.
And on the check—fully paid—was a note.
A young man from the group had written “Semper Fi” along the top of the check, and “Oorah!” on the end.
Taken aback, Lou crossed over to the young men, putting an arm across one of them. He was adamant that they hadn't needed to cover his meal, their “thanks” were already enough.
“You don’t have to do this. I know, being in the military, you don’t make a lot of money,” said Lou.
The young men wouldn’t listen.
Later, Lou shared: “They wanted me to know how much they appreciated me.”
Just before the elderly couple departed, another surprising thing happened, completely shocking the other diners.
Aware that Lou was leaving, the Marines were set on showing him their respect one final time.
As the last man went to settle their check, his four friends came over to Annette and Lou, to shake his hand a final time. An emotional Lou admitted that this had him in tears.
Every one of the Marines gave him their thanks, hugging him in turn. Recalling the event, Lou teared up once more.
He remembered: “They filed in front of my table, stood in line, and each one of them again put his hand out, shook my hand, thanked me, hugged me, and walked to my right”.
The diner had been pretty loud with chatter before that, and it was suddenly quiet when diners noticed what the young men were doing.
As the last Marine saluted Lou sharply, the group departed. The veteran was overwhelmed with gratitude that the young men had so meaningfully given their thanks for his past.
“The room got very quiet. Everyone was looking,” spoke Lou, wiping away at a moist eye. “Sorry … I still tear up when I talk about this. …”
The restaurant’s diners stood, clapping.
The Army vet didn't know what to do and turned to Annette. She told him to have a seat and take it easy after that emotional experience.
She, in turn, was touched by what had happened/
“It just speaks volumes for the military. I thought of my son, who is retired Air Force, and the people who thank him for his service. It’s rewarding to see that the military is so strong and so polite.”
News reports state that the Marines were first-class private officers, Diaz, Victor M. Andrade Gomez, Kevin Morris, Elijah Reynolds, and Eric A. Morales.
On trying to get their comments, the group had stated they were just doing what they thought was right.
Texas-based Private first class Diaz, 21, offered: “He fought for us. Now it’s our turn,”
Lou was a Navy-Marine between 1959-1963. He served as an E5 during 1961 and 1962 on USS Coral Sea, a carrier during Vietnam.
While he was supposed to be parachute rigging, Lou was the aircraft carrier’s plane captain, taking care of everything from pre-flight arrangements to a plane’s return on board.
When he completed his service, Lou was in the police force for over three decades. During the ‘70s, he was a detective, before becoming security for the US Marshall’s Court prior to retiring 13 years ago.
His story is a reminder of just how much it can really mean to thank those that serve. The most trivial actions of gratitude can have a huge effect on others.
These Privates’ conduct at that Cracker Barrel definitely impacted on Lou, and you can watch right here.
Do you think these young Marines deserve some praise of their own? Here’s to Lou and all of those who serve. Share this story with your friends!