From Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

Colonel Maggie and the Blind Veteran

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Martha Raye, our Colonel Maggie. Like so many veterans, as soon as I met her, I felt I’d known this woman forever.

One of our later encounters took place at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles in 1987 at an enormous veterans’ convention. Colonel Maggie was there, every day, just “one of the guys.” She was the center of attraction in the lounge.

Day after day, I couldn’t help but notice a blind man, quietly standing outside the lounge, his dog stoically beside him. Many vets asked if he needed assistance. He always quietly declined. Finally, a group of nervous veterans asked me to intercede.

I walked up to this man and asked what he was waiting for all those days.

“I’m waiting for Colonel Maggie to have a moment to see me, ma’am. I don’t care to disturb her.” Something about the guy got to me, and I sent Chuck, Maggie’s escort, to go get her.

Maggie strode right over to the man. “What’s up, soldier? You wanted to see me?” Even his dog stood at attention as he replied, “Yes, ma’am!”

“Well, I’m here. What is it?”

“I served in Vietnam in . . .” Maggie finished his sentence by providing the place she’d met him—once he’d mentioned the year.

While others standing around us showed pure awe at Maggie’s capacity for memory of detail, I only smiled; it’s her trademark.

While Maggie and the man (we never asked him his name) reminisced, the blind soldier’s face glowed with joy. Finally, he said what he’d waited twenty years to say.“Colonel Maggie,” he began, “when I was hit, you stayed in that foxhole, holding me, singing to me till the medevac came. I wasn’t so scared, with you there and all.” They were staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Somehow, we knew they were both seeing a time and place they’d shared long ago; in this moment, his blindness was unimportant. It was suddenly quiet enough to hear footfalls sixteen thousand miles away.

“When the doc went to bandage my eyes, you stopped him,” he continued, his voice choking. “You looked me right in my eyes and told me, ‘Someday we’ll see each other again.’

“Well, back in the world, when they unbandaged me, they told me I’d never see anything ever again. I wasn’t depressed. I knew I could live with this”—he pointed to his sightless eyes—“because the last thing I ever saw was the most beautiful sight I could ever live to see. You.”

Maggie took him in her arms, and we onlookers had a good cry. The veteran? His eyes were glowing with a sight from within. And Maggie? Once again, she gave that man exactly what he needed—when he needed it.

Susan M. Christiansen

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