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The Wal-Mart Greeter

There was a story in the American Rifleman about an elderly gentleman who the writer discovered working as a greeter at a Wal-Mart store. Probably someone you would pass by without even thinking twice — but for the patch he wore on his vest that showed he was a WWII vet who had survived the Normandy invasion. His story was compelling, he had won the bronze star for saving an ambushed tank commander, under fire, when a hidden Nazi tank took it out. The story was great, and it made me wonder how many other of these retired and very elderly folks who work as “greeters” to help fill their day — had such stories? Lives of greatness, bravery, and more! Hence — the poem —
©2014 by Jon Gutmacher
He stands the watch at Wal-Mart
as people go in and out
he greets each one
and says “good day”
as each one moves about

He’s 87 years old
and few shopper’s even glance
but on his shirt a medal shows
what he did way back
in France

It was almost seventy years ago
when he landed on Omaha Beach
his buddies were dying all about
the land just out
of reach

And bullets flew around him
and water weighed him down
but he somehow made the landfall
as mortars began to pound

And rushed towards cliffs above him
. . . there was nowhere else to go
and somehow destroyed a machine gun nest
as the mortar’s began to slow

And trudged into the battle fray
a daily, hopeless grind
the December rains caught him in the field
the conditions weren’t kind

And finally after days of fight
a Sherman Tank appeared
he started towards the armored tank
as another battle neared

When suddenly a German tank
disguised and camouflaged
took it out in one great blast
just another of war times

And from the hatch a flame shot out
and then a wounded man
and though the Nazi tank was near
he could not leave the man

And ran through the haze of battle
and pulled him from the tank
and dragged him fast to nearby woods
and in a small stream bank

And for that deed
the bronze star wore
until his dying day
and proudly kept it on his chest
the battle far away

And now he stands at Wal-Mart
ignored by most who shop
but if they knew his story
I think each one would stop

And extend a hand to a man so brave
who saved another’s life
when bullets flew
and fire reigned
in war . . .
and death . . .
and strife

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  • Bob Wheeler

    Hello Jon:
    I just read your poem “The Wal-Mart Greeter” and could not believe how the story parallels my Dads friend’s war experience. He was the wounded tank crewman. When his tank was hit, somehow he was able to get out before passing out. Another solder was able to drag him to help. He never knew the name of his rescuer. He lost a leg from the wound. No others escaped from the tank. He died not long ago after raising 3 children and a long career as a railroad depot agent (Avon Park) He was my Dad’s classmate and good friends all their lives.
    Bought one of your books but gave it away to a relative so I had to buy another!

    May 7, 2014
  • Jon Gutmacher

    Thanks for the comment. It would be amazing if the gentleman in the NRA article was the same guy who saved your dad! That would just be too cool. All these guys were heros. My dad had two DFC’s — never thought he did anything extraordinary, and rarely talked about it. It was just what they expected of themselves to save their country and families. All amazing men who forever shall be missed.

    May 15, 2014

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