For those who appreciate God’s gifts, our most embarassing moments often become our most powerful and life changing moments. And so it was for me during the summer of 1995. Storming into a South Korean bank hoping to exchange $3,000 worth of American Express travelers checks – so I could buy steroids from a local veterinarian – they said they didn’t accept them. Without argument, I strolled to the front door which was made of one inch thick glass, and threw it open so hard it exploded. Then I proceeded down the street with tellers, guards and bank managers running after me. Still in a rage, I would’ve beaten them – had I not been in uniform with my name stitched proudly over my pocket underneath a Special Operations patch. That action would not have gotten me far. So I stopped, and to my utter amazement, they politely begged me to come back into the bank and meet with their president…. and not to worry at all about the door. For real! The bank president already had $3,000 in Korean currency stacked on his desk and this is what he said to me. “I am so sorry for the oversight. Here is the money you requested. I want to thank you for your service to my country. I was a young boy when your country saved us from the communist. We are forever in your debt.” Then he reached on his desk and handed me a small wooden box. “Please accept this gift. My son made it for me.”
I broke down in front of that man, like a small child. That wooden box has adorned my desk for the past 19 years. I keep all of my Navy warfare pins in it, a humble reminder of what I should have stood for as an American, but didn’t. With God’s blessing, hopefully I’ll never again disgrace my country.
The box of pins – that cannot make me a man. Learning from mistakes is what makes for a man.
I gave that gentleman a thousand dollars for his door, thanked him for his compassion, and elected to spend the money more wisely. He will never know of his profound effect on my life. I look at that box every day… aspiring to be a better man.