Monday used to be a day off a couple of years back. Things have changed since then.
First off, our new location seemed to breed business because of it's location close to medical facilities. As people came to realize our nearness, they would come in after doctor visits, many of which required fasting prior to. This factor alone took Monday away from being the quietest day of the week.
Then, we came up with the idea of a charity poker tourney on Monday evenings giving me something special to do on that quiet Monday night.
But, then the biggest change was when the Band of Brothers decided to adopt Jake's as their home. Since then, Monday has never really been quite the same.
I arrived right about 9, giving me just enough time to grab a bite to eat and finish off paperwork from the Sunday before starting the transition of the diner to facilitate the coming of the brothers. Richard showed up to stamp hands while I began to move high chairs and baby seat carriers out of the entry area.
The girls had already set up the extra tables in the back room and were already seating people back there when I began the transformation. Moving the greeters table to help open up the door, setting up a table for Lauren to place his stuff, breaking out the microphone and amplifier equipment, moving the plants and replacing with the flags while Jimmy cleared off the short counter and set up the buffet.
It seemed no time before the brothers started to fill up the room and Zin prepared to start the merriment. The first thing that I noticed was that the back room had filled up and new customers were strolling in to find no seats thus causing a block up. I quickly placed a 'Please wait to be seated' sign up in the door and found seats for the ones drifting around the room looking. I soon was making a list along with our cashier, Kara to try and organize these along with explaining why they were relegated to the back room, some of which didn't even know we had one.
I kind of feel it is an unprecedented thing, having a group take over a restaurant on a busy day for three hours like it has, but....it works. Most everyone who sits in the back room understands and then when they realize that the group of vets won't hold up their meals because of the buffet are appreciative.
I came around to seat some of the waiting crowd as Zin is leading the Pledge of Allegiance. I happily watch all of the waiting customers as they all stand to their feet and join in with the brothers. It speaks volumes to the character of these people.
My next hour is spent balancing myself between the two rooms, pouring coffee, talking to customers and friends, seating new ones, and generally, helping out. I notice that the line for the buffet in the front room snakes all around the room as the vets take their time and Jimmy serves them their meal of eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast, biscuits, gravy, and a special apple mixture of Jim's. Zin spends his time with announcements and opening up the floor for different vets to make announcements of their own for various vet affairs in the area.
I stopped and talked with Bob Maxwell and Bob Dent to set up times to go to the Lapine Band of Brother event on Wednesday which will be a special event of it's own of which I will be bringing yet another Bob (Shotwell) to. Then, I made my own announcement inviting any of the vets that want to to join us for poker that evening as the proceedings benefit veteran Habitat for Humanity builds. One of the brothers who had just made an announcement for veteran housing needs help stops me and we begin talking of the need and the various groups and agencies involved when Bill Bussey comes up to the microphone.
I am pulled away from the conversation as Bill awards me with a commemorative Vietnam service coin complete with the engraving of my name, service, and dates. I was honored by the coin of which I will always keep close to me and I am sure pass on to one of my kids some day.
I then found myself deep in conversation with that same housing vet when we realize our familiarity of service. I was a navy Quartermaster whose main job was to assist the Navigator of the ship while he was a Navigator on his. We laughed when I shared my story of my tattoo where my Navigator had actually saved my bacon after I had become incapacitated by what I thought was a harmless bottle of beer that was to help ease the pain of the tattoo that ended up being laced with something else. When I awoke, our ship was fast on it's way back to Vietnam and the pull out of Saigon and the Navigator had taken my place with my headphones and set our positions as we moved the ship out of the Hong Kong straits.
As I moved back and forth between the two rooms, three vets stopped me in the back room and jokingly asked me if this was now the Band of Brothers annex as they could not find seats in the front room and decided to enjoy each others company in the back area. They were all from Redmond and had come down to find out the time and day of the new Redmond branch of this group.
I made a head count of the group in the front room. Not counting me, there were 76. Add in the three in the back room and then me, and the final count was 80. A new record. I dropped into thoughts of where and what we might need to do in the future when a young vet was brought to the front of the room. This young man was about to head out to a tour in Afghanistan. I watched as he became touched to the core by 77 crusty old vets, many of them with walkers, crutches, and canes stand to their feet and gave this young man a standing ovation. I could see the tear in his eye and the shake in his legs as he didn't know just how to take this incredible honor.
The event finished and I stood to the side saying hello to friends that I had missed while being busy earlier when I saw Bea Maxwell crossing the room, headed my way. I have really come to love Bob and Bea Maxwell. Bob is the only living Medal of Honor winner in Oregon and one of the most humble men that I have ever met. Bea had something in her hand and she placed it in mine. "I thought you might like to see this", she smiled.
I smiled back and asked her how her daughter was doing as I began to unfold the curious wrapped blue ribbon when I realized what it was. I lost all consciousness of my conversation, my knees went weak, my pulse quickened, and I began to sweat as I realized what it was that I was now holding in my hand. The Congressional Medal of Honor. The highest award that can be given for the valor of a military man. I turned it over and over in my shaking hand before placing it back in hers while cupping my hand over hers in thanks for this huge honor of just being able to touch it.
Even now, I look back at the 10 to 15 second event as the highlight of my day and probable highlight of my entire week.