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The Sack Lunches: A valuable story

July is the busiest month at the recreation center (and it’s already half gone).

Our members have been flexible and cooperative in adjusting their workout times to accommodate swim team training, children’s swim lessons and the overall increase in user traffic from timeshare owners.

Open swim times are generally noisier and most crowded — that’s noon to closing at 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, although open swim is all day long, the activity level generally doesn’t peak until late morning.

If you lack tolerance for noise and children, please try to come in before noon during the week and on weekends. Otherwise, with the lovely weather outside, a relaxing walk, bike or run in the woods will enable you to get in some cardiovascular exercise without jostling with the indoor crowd. Adjust your habits to summer’s swell of visitors. Embrace the change: more cars, more people, longer lines at the grocery store, rising mercury in the thermometers and more cash flow in the community.

Mary McKeehan is the editor for High Country Echoes — a weekly publication for the noon Rotary Club of Pagosa Springs. My favorite part of the Echoes is the gems that Mary puts in that are not directly related to Rotary, but are interesting and tell a story with a moral. Like a fable, perhaps. Here’s one for Independence Day, which we’ve just celebrated. The story is valuable … the lesson is one we can learn and relearn all the time.

The Sack Lunches

Just before takeoff on a long flight, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the seats surrounding me. They told me they were headed to special training and then to Afghanistan.

After an hour it was announced that sack lunches were available for $5. With several more flight hours ahead, I reached for my wallet. I overheard a soldier say $5 was a lot for a sack lunch; he would wait until he got to base. As I looked around, I noticed none of the soldiers were buying lunch.

I walked to the back of the plane, gave the flight attendant $50 and told her to “Please take lunch to all those soldiers.” She squeezed my arm with teary eyes and thanked me. “My son was a soldier in Iraq.” She picked up 10 sacks for the soldiers.

After eating I headed for the rest room. A man stopped me. “I saw what you did,” and handed me $25.

After returning to my seat the Flight Captain came to me and asked to shake my hand. With a booming voice he said, “I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.” I was embarrassed when all the passengers broke into applause.

A man seated ahead of me asked to shake my hand and left $25 in my palm. When I gathered my belongings to depart the plane, a man stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket and walked away without a word. Another $25!

When I entered the terminal I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them, handed them the $75 and said, “It will take you some time to reach the base. By then it will be about time for another sandwich. God bless you.”

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals.

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check payable to “The United States of America” for the amount of “up to and including my life.” That is an honor.

Please spend a moment to remember our troops past and present.