The memory lingers

By Ruth Limkin

Last Tuesday I was getting ready for work, trying not to cry. The morning news was on television, and they had crossed to the live press conference detailing the tragic news about the loss of two Australian troops in Afghanistan.

It had only been 14 hours since I’d shared a coffee with a young woman whose new husband was about to be deployed to Afghanistan. It was a stark conjunction of events and emotion.

I was reminded again of the heavy price that some choose to pay, to protect and to serve.

Later that day, as I was driving home, I saw a young man in army fatigues cycling through some suburban streets.

I wondered whether to stop and say thank you. I questioned myself – what would I say, would I look silly?

I’m glad to say I did stop. It was one of those times I got it right.

I flagged him down.

“Excuse me, I know this might sound weird, but I told myself today that if I saw a member of our defence forces today, I would stop them and say thank you. So, thank you for all you do. We really appreciate it.”

He blushed as he looked down, with a small smile across his face, and then looked up at me, smiled broadly and stuck his hand out to shake mine. “Thank you. I really appreciate that. Thank you”

I’m not sure who said thank you more times – me or him.

The whole exchange took about 60 seconds.

The memory of it has stayed with me for 6 days…. and will linger longer than that.

Perhaps one day this young man will need to remember that we are grateful for his willingness to serve and to sacrifice. I hope he has many such memories to draw upon then.