Last week, near Ft. Lewis in Tacoma WA, a currently active female soldier entered a restaurant to have some wings and a beer with someone who would never show up at the table: her brother who had died in Iraq while protecting us. Was she delusional? No, she was just creating her own ritual, very similar to the lunch that is held every year for Vietnam MIA soldiers, and that always has an extra chair at the table, as well as an empty place setting. I have been to one of those at our own Alabama Vets’ Museum, and I will never forget how moving it was, or how grateful I continue to be for the forgiveness of God and ‘Nam vets for my former stupidity.
The scene in the Northwest was the Wild Wings Restaurant, and the female soldier came in, ordered a Blue Moon and a Corona, (two different brands of beer) and for a moment hit a snag: in Washington State, you can order only one beer at a time, and cannot order ahead for the person who is going to join you. Her server, whose name is Brian Avey, politely explained the law. The soldier politely explained that she was there to honor her brother, who would not be joining them because he fell in battle.
Avey relented, rightfully upholding the spirit of the law, the soldier ate her meal, and the untouched, opened Corona sat next to her the entire time in the space that would have been filled by her brother. The restaurant also didn’t charge her for his beer. She left it there and on her receipt wrote a brief thank you note to the server and the restaurant which said:
“Thank you. An act of kindness goes a long way. It means a lot to me. Have a great rest of your day.—Greatful [sic] Soldier”
Mr. Avey finished his shift, went home to the ubiquitous Facebook, and wrote a post that has now gone viral. It said:
“After she left, I didn’t have the heart to dump the beer out and throw it away, so I put it on top of the cooler next to the American Flag. When I showed my boss his response was Amazing… He said ‘That’s Fine, just do me a favor, put a fresh Lime in it Every Morning.’”
A fresh lime every morning. What a profoundly simple and dear way to say thank you to a soldier who gave his life for us, as well as a way to honor his active duty sister. While I realize that at some point the beer is going to have to be disposed of, I am personally grateful for the response of the server, the response of the restaurant, and the response of the manager. I also deeply hope that the Health Department of the State of Washington, as well as the State Liquor Board, or whatever other governing body which manages open bottles of Corona will let the lime be refreshed for as long as Wild Wings deems fit.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner