Military veterans – they are the people who willingly risked their lives for our protection and freedom. As civilians, it is difficult to think of what we can do to compensate our soldiers for all the efforts and sacrifices they’ve done for the society.
But five young men came up with an incredible display of appreciation for a military man dining in a local restaurant. The veteran was completely caught off guard, nevertheless, it was an extraordinary experience that will never leave his memory.
Lou Zezoff, a Vietnam Naval Veteran from Granite City, Illinois, went with his wife Annette to Cracker Barrel to enjoy a quiet dinner. However, things weren’t about to go as planned.
At the time, he was wearing his “U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran” cap. As the couple entered, Lou noticed a round table with five young men sitting there. From their “high and tight” haircut, the veteran knew instantly that they were service members even though they weren’t in uniform.
Lou and Annette took their seats and ordered their food. But before any of their meals were served, one of the young Marines from the round table got up and walked over to them. The guy shook Lou’s hand and thanked him for his service. The military man acknowledged it and the guy turned around and went back to their table.
Immediately, a second guy went over to Lou, threw his hand out and said, “I want to thank you for all five of us”. Lou responded by saying thank you and wishing them all good luck with their careers.
The elderly couple finished their meals and Lou signaled the waiter to give them their check. After a few moments, the waiter came back with a huge smile on his face while waving the receipt, telling Lou that it was “his lucky day”.
As it turns out, the five Marines already paid for their dinner. One of them wrote, “Semper Fi” across the top of the receipt and an “Oorah!” at the bottom.
Lou was utterly surprised by this unexpected gesture. He came over to the men’s table and put his arm around one of the guys, insisting that they didn’t have to do that for them – they all knew that being in the military doesn’t make one a lot of money. To him, a simple acknowledgment was more than enough. But the guys didn’t mind doing this for him at all.
“They wanted me to know how much they appreciated me.”, Lou said.
The veteran thanked them once again and went back to their table. Just when Lou thought that it was all over, the boys performed another show of respect before they left. As one of their comrades was in the counter paying the bill, the group gathered in front of the couple’s table.
“They filed to the 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 second one followed and by the time the third man came, the veteran said that he was already a “basket case”. The room became unusually quiet and he felt the diners were watching them. After the fourth Marine gave him the “sharpest salute” he had ever seen, the group turned and walked out.
Lou was left there standing in awe. He turned to his wife, who said that he better sit down first to catch his breath, and he did.
According to Belleville News, the five Marines were named Val Diaz, Victor M. Andrade Gomez, Kevin Morris, Elijah Reynolds, and Eric A. Morales, all private first class rank.
When asked for comment, they explained that it was simply the right thing to do.
“He fought for us. Now it’s our turn,” Pfc. Diaz said.
Watch the video below as Lou himself recounted the events of that unforgettable night.
It’s heartwarming to know that our military is appreciated – as they always should be – and that there are people who willingly go out of their way to show their respect and gratitude to our veterans, just like what the five young Marines did.
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