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Posted at 3:11 PM ET, 02/17/2009

A Valentine for a Marine

By Gina Acosta

The table was full at the Japanese steakhouse in Northern Virginia the evening before Valentine’s Day. There were eight semi-strangers: a family of five, a loner and a young couple. During the course of the evening, between trying to catch shrimp and watching smoking volcanoes on the teppanyaki table, the chef asked each of us about ourselves. Eventually, the chef turned his attention to the young couple at the end of the table, asking the young man, “So ..... you G.I.?”

“No, actually I’m a Marine!” he proudly proclaimed.

Further questioning revealed that he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, had traveled to Virginia to be with his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day and would be deployed to Afghanistan in the coming months. He was 21, and he had already been to Iraq three times.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether being deployed that many times, to places where there were no front lines and no one was truly safe, was not unlike playing Russian roulette with six rounds in the chamber. This man — and he was a man at 21 — was so full of enthusiasm for life, his country and his valentine.

The couple exchanged glances indicating that they were getting reacquainted, while they held hands beneath the table. They looked at each other as only young lovers can, enjoying the moment and trying not to think about what the future might bring. I was so intent on watching them that I didn’t even notice that the loner had left before everyone else, even before the individual checks were brought to the table.

Imagine the Marine’s surprise when he reached for his wallet, only to be wished a “Happy Valentine’s Day” and be told that his bill had been paid. Despite repeated inquiries, the waitress would not divulge who had paid the bill, but it was obvious that his story had touched at least one other person sitting at that table. And perhaps now it has touched even more.

I hope the future holds nothing but happiness for that couple, and that our Marine dinner companion returns safe and sound from every deployment, because he has volunteered for all of them.

Bob Cook
Alexandria

By Gina Acosta  | February 17, 2009; 3:11 PM ET
Categories:  military  
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