Everyday he could be found sitting outside the coffee shop. Rain or sun, hot or cold, there he was, from dawn to dusk. He never bothered the customers, but always gave them a smile and a greeting. Bald with a scraggly beard, the middle-aged man wore clothes that were patched many times over and pair of old combat boots. Occasionally a customer would exit the store and give him a large coffee and a muffin. Sometimes other would give him some money to buy a real meal. He would thank them and tell them to have a great day.
One day a customer noticed the man wasn’t outside the shop. At the counter after placing his order, he asked about the homeless guy.
“Him? He died yesterday afternoon. One minute he was sitting there waving to a customer and the next he keeled over. Paramedics say it was a heart attack.”
“Who was he?”
“A veteran. I talked to him sometimes and he saw some shit over in Iraq that he couldn’t’ deal with once he got back home. Wife left him, his kids ignored him. He tried to hold a job, but he ended up living on the streets.” The guy behind the counter placed the customers order in a bag. “Seems he had no family so he’ll probably end up in Potters Field like the other homeless.”
“That’s not right. He served his country and should be treated better than that!” The customer thought for a moment, then smiled. “What if we set up a collection can to pay for a burial and headstone?”
“I have no objection. I’ll even toss in two hundred dollars to get it started,” the shop owner said.
Two weeks later at a local cemetery, a small group of people gathered around a new grave complete with headstone.
Here Lies Arthur Michael Franklin Born September 20, 1982 Died October 16, 2014 He served his country well.
Each person at the gravesite carried a cup of coffee and in silence, they raised the hot brew in salute to the man who had fought for their freedom.