You never know when you’re going to find a hero.
My wife, Joy, learned this when we both worked at the Florida Legislature while I was in law school. I worked in the House of Representatives Committee on Criminal Justice. She worked for Bill Drafting, both in the Senate and in the House.
One day the Legislature honored survivors of the holocaust. Joy was able to slip away from her desk long enough to peek in on the brief ceremony.
She looked over the rail of the balcony and there they were—men and women who looked like ordinary people. You might stand behind one of them in the grocery store and never know that years ago they endured hell on earth.
It makes you realize that there are remarkable people everywhere you go. They blend in with the rest of us. We don’t take the opportunity to meet them and we never hear their inspiring stories.
I met a hero disguised as a waiter this week. The hostess at the Olive Garden in Fayetteville brought him to our table. “I want you to be served by one of our best today,” she said. “His name is Ronald.”
Immediately, I noticed something unique about him. I think it was his bright, quick smile. This guy seemed genuinely delighted to serve our food to us.
It was easy to talk to somebody like that. After hearing his experience, I’m so glad we did.
Ronald told us that, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, he and his identical twin, Roland, were furious. Like thousands of others, they decided to fight back. They enlisted in the military. Soon both were deployed. Roland went to Afghanistan. Ronald was assigned to a medical unit in Iraq.
There Ronald saw the worst atrocities war has to offer. Maimed men and women. Death on a daily schedule. Suffering around the clock. I’m sure Ronald looked after them with the servant’s heart that makes him a star at Olive Garden today.
When his four-year tour ended, he could have come home. Instead, he chose a second tour of duty. Roland, over in Afghanistan, decided to re-up, too.
Then, Roland was killed in action.
Ronald heard the tragic news. It was devastating. Again, he could have come home. Again, he decided to stay and serve our country.
Now, after eight years of war, he was bringing our bread and salad to us, treating us like royalty.
Joy thanked him for his service to the nation. Modestly, Ronald replied, “No, I want to thank you for your prayers. While I was away, I could feel your prayers and they meant so much to me.”
If that is true, I need to pray a lot more faithfully for our military in harm’s way. I hope you will, too.
And if you visit the Olive Garden in Fayetteville, ask for Ronald Heinz.
In a waiter’s outfit or in battle fatigues, he’s a hero.