Sitting in the Memphis airport on my way home this week, I was privileged to observe the interactions of three World War II veterans and several sailors just out of basic on their way to Florida for the next training phase.
The veterans were an Army infantryman, an Army technician who worked on Air Force planes, and a Marine. The Army men both wore hats or jackets that identified them as veterans. The seven young sailors looked sharp in their dress whites, confident in having made it through basic training and still a bit nervous about the further training to come.
The infantryman had fought in one of the European beach landings, and he was a bit of a cheerful provocateur. One of his first comments on seeing the sailors was made to his WWII colleagues: "Yeah, the Navy dropped us off and turned tail and ran!" The youngsters laughed but were a little unsure how to take him until they realized he simply delighted in the age-old service rivalries banter, subjecting his Marine companion to it also, and wasn't about to let them off it just because of their youth.
They spent the next half-hour listening not just respectfully but with great interest to the oldsters' tales, laughing often but with an underlying gravity that suggested their understanding of the choice they have made to serve. May God bless them all.