STORY ON A BUMPER – William F. Crandell

First off I spotted the bumper sticker: “Firepower is one carefully aimed shot at a time.” For just a second, I was puzzled. Some gun nut? No. A sniper. An instant later, my eye distinguished the red, gold and black roundel. Marine Corps, not NRA. Marine snipers are the best in the business.

The wintry winter’s chill deepened. Then I noticed the symbol on the license plate that wasn’t a number or a letter, but that familiar little wheelchair that distinguishes disability.

It broke my stride.

Damn, damn, they got him. Whoever he was—surely a generation or more younger than I am—he went overseas a bright, young, self-confident Marine, and they sent most of him home. Maybe, probably, still bright and even still self-confident, but he’d never be young again.

It broke my stride, walking the dog through the snow flurries, reading the Marine’s proud short story off his bumper, fifty years after I wore my own Purple Heart home. The pain of it broke my stride. I’m old enough to wince without feeling stupid about it.