Hey, why’s this stolen valor thing in the headlines again? says Molokai, slapping down his newspaper.
What headlines? says our Millennial waitress who gets her news in happy snippets online. And who can steal valor, anyway?
Molokai grabs for his cup of coffee and drinks it down hot and furious.
You don’t know? he shouts at her.
Oh, don’t be upset with a Millennial, says The Boomer sitting on a stool further down the diner counter. We never taught them to know any better.
Better than what? says the waitress, archly.
It’s like this, says Molokai with a patience that further infuriates our Millennial. This guy – Molokai taps the newspaper – claimed he won the Medal of Honor in Iraq and a Purple Heart for war wounds and wears his old Army uniform to give speeches to beg money to pay for his medical treatment but he never left a Stateside training camp and flunked out of that!
So he dresses up his C.V., says the waitress. Everyone does that.
Molokai howls in frustration. People flee the diner knowing what comes next from him will be volcanic.
But The Boomer says to the waitress, It’s not just playacting. Claiming valor medals not yours demeans what men and women who are true heroes in war did to keep this country safe and free.
Oh, says the Millennial.
“Oh?” cries Molokai. Is that all you can say, you poor child?
You want more coffee in your cup or in your face, Molokai? she says, surprisingly calm.
The Boomer says to her, I think you’ve got something to tell us, don’t you?
My granddad, she says, was there in Vietnam like you boomers. He deserved some medals but never got them.
What? says Molokai in fresh rage. No one made the effort to do the stinking Army politics to write him up for medals?
He didn’t care so long as he came home alive, says the Millennial. He got the Purple Heart, though. They gave him that. I don’t even know what it means.
It means a lot, says The Boomer.
But now here’s this creep – Molokai slaps the newspaper headline again – working the system to cheat everyone like your granddad who stood up for the country.
The waitress says, sweetly, So send him to the war zone and leave him there until he earns what he claims.
Molokai and The Boomer raise their coffee cups in salute to our favorite Millennial.
The rest of us cheer.
© 2016 Steven Hardesty