May 30, 2013
A year or so ago, I was at the coast when I got a telephone call. It was Senator Jeff Merkley's office. They wanted to bring Jeff into a Band of Brothers meeting. I told them that I was sure that would be OK, but he needed to understand that their were two conditions that needed to be met. No politics and no religion. He could talk of veteran issues that were being addressed of the day and answer questions but not stump for votes.
We both agreed to get back with one another and they called me
back the next week and agreed. In the meantime, I had talked with the principles from the group and they thought it would be a good thing also so the date was set. I warned them that the questions that would be asked might be pretty hot since we were not going to screen them. They thought that would be just fine.
Jeff came in and was very nice. He talked of what was being addressed in congress and then opened up the floor for questions. As I expected, since the group is a bit conservative, he was asked some pretty good ones. Like, "Why did you vote f
or the Affordable Care Act without reading the bill?". "My staff read every page.", he dodged, and then asked for the next question as I heard the grumbles from certain areas of the room. He smiled brightly and seemed to listen to most everyone. He dodged so well when the questions were a little hot, that I kind of gave him the nick name, "The Artful Dodger". I kind of liked the guy even though I disagreed with most of his ideas on how to handle certain situations. He sent me a nice note and I put his picture up on our wall.
So, once again, I am over at the coast and I receive a phone call. This time it is from Greg Walden's office. They asked if Greg could come into the diner and talk. At first, I thought it the same thing and I gave them the spiel of the rules of the Band of Brothers. "He is not coming in to see them.", they said, "He is interested in having a breakfast at your diner.". "Are you sure you have the right place?", I asked, "I am not very fancy and just a diner.". They said that they were interested in having a breakfast similar to what the Band of Brothers do but they would invite their supporters in.
The date that they wanted was the same day of the week that the High Desert A's come in for their weekly breakfast so I checked with them and they agreed to come in the day before that week and the date was set.
Originally, the number was set at around 60 but as the date came closer, the number grew and the final count that was given the day before was 90. I must admit that I began to get a bit nervous then as that would fill up every seat in the room. I imagined a couple coming in at the end and having to sit at different tables of which they would not be very happy.
I got up early and came in to begin the transition. The one thing that I knew that I didn't need to worry about was the food. Jimmy does so well with his weekly group that he has it down to a science. Only this time, the numbers would be up.....but he handles that well also. I knew their would be plenty of food.
The event was to start at so I closed off the room at 7. Two groups were there and they soon left. The room was vacant for a few minutes which made the set up even easier. We pulled the things off of the counter and moved the chairs out of the room. Soon, some of Walden's people came in and the stage was soon set.
By 7:30, they started to arrive. I placed myself at the door to insure that the everyone knew where to go. Trin had made up a directional sign that was placed their also. One lady stared and stared at the sign. She then came over and informed me that the directional arrow for our regular guests pointed them towards the bathrooms instead of the back room. I smiled and thanked her knowing full well that I could not change it at this late date. I just knew that I needed to be more on top of things when I greeted them.
Greg arrived around 7:45. He came right over to me and thanked me for letting him come in. He seemed to be a very pleasant and casual man and I liked him immediately just as I did Mr. Merkley. I guess I expected both to be more.....confident and bold. Even more so than Merkley, however, he seemed like a guy that I could just sit at the counter and talk over a cup of coffee with.
As the crowd grew, I realized that most of the larger independent businessmen in the community were right there in my front room. Some I knew others I didn't but knew them from their reputations and businesses. I helped couples find seats and the room seemed to just blend. At 8, breakfast was started and by 8:30, the room was fed and everyone seemed happy.
As I talked to various people, only one stood out different from the group. He was a local politician and, well, in my humble opinion, he came across a bit aloof when we met. Of all of the people that came into the room, he seemed to stick out. He even sat off by himself. I figured it out later.....his politics were of the other side.
Greg started his talk around 8:45 or so. He started by calling me out in front of all of the guests. He looked at me and said, "Lyle, I know of all that you do for the veterans in this community and I want to thank you for that, for your service, and for allowing me to use your diner.".
I was overwhelmed. To have that spoken by him in front of a room filed with people that I respect for their hard work and determination in their respective businesses....I smiled and waved and then drifted off back to my corner.
I listened as best as I could while greeting our regular diners and finding them seats in the back room. Everyone seemed happy and understanding of the situation. Many of them were friends that I see quite often. Two of the Model A guys showed up.....wrong day but they sat together and had breakfast anyway.
As Greg spoke and answered questions, I realized yet another difference between he and Jeff. He seemed to take every question on without diversion and gave them all answers as to why he felt the way that he did towards the issue. He did not dodge. Now, I realize that he was speaking mainly to the choir but his answers seemed not only confident but compassionate, caring, thoughtful, and above all, respectful. He seemed to make sure that the question was answered before going on to the next topic.
Dick Tobiason was in the crowd and let me know that he would be presenting Greg with some items for his support of the Honor Flight. We had two Honor Flight recipients including Red who was eating in the back room. As Dick, came forward, I brought Red out with me. Dick introduced Roland and Red as two WW2 vets and started to speak. I taped him on the arm and asked for the mic. Since it was my place, Dick handed it over with a bit of a inquisitive look. "Now, Dick, when you introduced Red here, you missed a couple of points. First off, yes, it is a WW2 vet but you all need to realize that he was much more than that. He stuck around for the Korean conflict and if that was not enough, he hung around for Vietnam. He now is in his fourth war, however as he was married two years ago right here in front of our coffee pot.".
The room erupted with laughter as I handed the mic back. The last bit was for Red's bride, Vivian whom I love to dig every chance that I get. Red and Vivian have become very close friends of ours and she takes my teases quite well. She is very proud of how we first met in the line at Walmart. She turned around and informed me that my toast was limp and that I needed to correct that. I did.
As the crowd dispersed, nearly everyone came over and shook my hand and thanked me for allowing the meeting. Once again I was overwhelmed but I focused on something that I often look closely at...the handshake. Nearly everyone was solid, showing me that they met what they were saying. Only a couple were slightly less and one was....well more limp. Every solid shake looked me in the eye....the limp guy....looked away. Funny how the small things can make such a difference.
Everything went off without a hitch thanks mostly to the fact that we do this weekly for the Band of Brothers and the crew has become quite used to it. It is funny how one thing seems to build on another. And I remain...very thankful for it all.