One night I was working RDO which meant a late night piece on the 72. It was a revelation to see another side to this most chaotic of routes. Daytime runs are a blur of packed artics contending with endless miles of traffic congestion. This night run was like a Sunday stroll. It was quiet as could be, everyone either wrapping up their day or heading to a night shift somewhere.
A good percentage of our sizable homeless population consists of military veterans. Many proudly wear embroidered hats from the conflicts they participated in. Vietnam, WW II, Iraq, Afghanistan, even the Cold War are frequently represented. Admittedly, there is a smaller percentage among that group who never set foot in a war zone, but wear the 'souvenirs' for a level of respect they otherwise wouldn't receive.
This was confirmed by an older gentleman wearing just such a hat, though I believe he's the real deal. Sgt Rob Davis boarded that night on one of those quiet trips, eager to talk. A conversation that initially dwelt on a tedious subject like transit fares soon transitioned into casinos, previous occupations, homelessness, veterans, and respect. His current focus is working with widows and the children of fallen soldiers. He says it's therapy, this supporting of others in their time of grief, and that it helps him with his own issues. He lamented a growing disregard for the sacrifices of America's veterans. It was certainly lament and not outrage that was being expressed that night.
"If you as a bus driver just show the smallest bit of respect to a vet, ask how they're doin', it means the world to us."
With Fleet Week kicking off this weekend, I can't help but express some gratitude for those who lay it all on the line.