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Claim: A traveler spontaneously purchased sack lunches for all the soldiers on his flight.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, October 2008]
I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. 'I'm glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,' I thought. Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me.
'Great Lakes Air Base. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Iraq.'
After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached Chicago, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time.
As I reached for my wallet, I overheard soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. 'No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn't be worth five bucks. I'll wait till we get to Chicago.'
His friend agreed.
I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. 'Take a lunch to all those soldiers.' She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. 'My son was a soldier in Iraq it's almost like you are doing it for him.'
Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, 'Which do you like best — beef or chicken?' 'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked.
She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 'This is your thanks.'
After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. 'I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.' He handed me twenty-five dollars.
Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, 'I want to shake your hand.'
Quickly unfastening my seat belt I stood and took the Captain's 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 applause was heard from all of the passengers.
Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.
When we landed in Chicago I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!
Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. 'It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.'
Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, 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.
It seemed so little...
"A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it."
Origins: Variously titled "Just Lunch," "Act of Kindness," "The Sack Lunches," the story quoted above began circulating in the online world in August 2008. It was copied from the magazine
Renewed & Ready, Adventist Living for Today where it appeared in that publication's July 2008 issue titled "An Unforgettable Flight" and presented as having been written "by Beverly Brass (as told by Denny Kukich)." Denny Kukich, the man who had supposedly paid for the soldiers' box lunches, was further identified as hailing from Wood Dale, Illinois.
There are two differences between the original account and the story that has come to be circulated online. First, the original's opening paragraph contained an element that has subsequently been excised from the text: woven into the description of being seated on the plane was the teller's desire to "share Jesus" with a stranger, a motive that prompted him to strike up a conversation with the soldier seated nearby.
I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. This is going to be a long flight. I'm glad I have a good book to read, and perhaps I will get a short nap. I fly frequently; I always look for an opportunity to share Jesus with someone. I wondered who it could be because there were empty seats all around me. Not much of a chance to talk to anyone. Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and took the seats across the aisle and in front of me. More came. Still more ... Finally, ten soldiers filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. This is more like it! OK, Lord, which one will it be? Who needs to hear about you? I decided to start a conversation.
Second, while the original ends with "It seemed so little," the tale circulated online completes with a coda that was added by an anonymous person whose cyber hands the account passed through:
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.
As to whether the story is an accurate account of an actual event or a work of fiction meant to inspire its readers into acts of charity and appreciation for those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, that determination remains up in the air. We haven't been able to get in touch with Denny Kukich (either through the church or directly), and the tale contains precious little by way of checkable facts (such as when the flight took place, where it left from, and what airline was involved). Lacking those details, locating independent third-party confirmation via questioning people on that flight would be akin to hunting for a needle in a haystack.
However, factual or not, the tale's larger message about showing appreciation for members of the armed forces is a good one.