Lou Zezoff, a 74-year-old Vietnam veteran, and his wife Annette live in Granite City, Illinois. He wanted to stop for a pleasant supper with his wife at Cracker Barrel, but he had no clue that he would be moved to tears by these incredible Marines. Lou saw a table of younger boys close as soon as he stepped in. He didn’t think much of it until the guys rushed to his table, interrupting his meal frequently. As the veteran began to cry, their actions drew the attention of the whole diner. Lou Zezoff, 74, and his wife Annette live in Granite City, Illinois.
They recently went out to dine at Cracker Barrel and were looking forward to spending quality time together. Lou stepped out wearing his “US Navy Vietnam Veteran” cap, as he always did. When the couple arrived at the restaurant, Lou observed five men sitting at an adjacent table after being seated. He didn’t realize it at the time, but the young guys had seen Lou and his hat, and they planned to make this an evening to remember.
The young lads acted quickly as Lou and his wife issued orders. Lou was calmly eating his supper when one of the young men approached him and took a seat at his table. As he approached face-to-face with the young man, Lou remembered, “I stood up.” The young man extended his hand in gratitude for Lou’s selflessness. Lou was taken aback by the gesture; after all, this isn’t something that happens every day at a restaurant. The rest of the group came up and showed their appreciation, and Lou assumed it was over. “I recognized them as military because of their high and tight haircuts,” Lou explained.
Marines, in fact. And, as I already stated, it didn’t end there. When the first man returned to his table, another stood up and approached Lou. The veteran rose once again, unsure of what was ahead. “I want to thank you for all five of us,” the second young guy remarked, motioning to the other three. Lou expressed his gratitude for the young men’s good sentiments, and the two exchanged a few words. Lou expressed his gratitude and wished all of the soldiers continued success in their military careers. He went back to his lunch after that, assuming the situation was over.
But, once Lou and his wife had finished their meal, he motioned for the check to be brought over. “This is your lucky day,” the waiter exclaimed as he waved the bill at their table with a wide smile on his face. Lou’s meal had been purchased by the young Marines. A note was also written on the receipt. “Semper Fi!” was scribbled over the top, with a “Oorah!” at the bottom, by one of the Marines. Lou approached their table, surprised, and wrapped his arm around one of the guys, demanding they didn’t have to pay for his supper. It was enough to say “thank you.” “You don’t have to do this.”
“I understand that being in the military doesn’t pay well,” Lou explained. But the Marines held their ground. Lou explained, “They wanted me to know how much they valued me.” Something else happened just as Lou and Annette were ready to leave that stunned the other guests. The young Marines wanted to give the veteran one more sign of respect before they parted ways. While the fifth guy was away settling the bill, the other four strolled up to Lou’s table and extended their hand to shake the veteran’s hand one final time, he remembered, admitting that it brought tears to his eyes. One by one, they each thanked and hugged him.
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Lous’ eyes welled up with emotions as he narrated the occurrence. “They filed in front of my table, formed a line, and each of them extended his hand, shook mine, thanked me, hugged me, and proceeded to my right,” Lou remembered. As observers saw the Marines’ behavior, the restaurant’s once lively and conversational ambiance was replaced with an eerie silence. They turned and went out after the fourth Marine gave Lou “the sharpest salute” he’d ever seen. Lou was “awestruck” and deeply grateful to the soldiers who showed their thanks for his service so forcefully. “The room fell silent. Lou wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and continued, “Everyone was staring.”
“Sorry … When I talk about it, I still cry….” Others stood up and applauded. Lou couldn’t help but look at his wife, who advised him to take a seat and collect his breath after such an emotional experience. The scene affected Lou’s wife Annette. “It really says a lot about the military,” I remembered my retired Air Force son and the folks who praised him for his service. It’s inspiring to see how powerful and kind the military is.” The five Marines were eventually identified as Kevin Morris, Val Diaz, Eric A. Morales, Victor M. Andrade Gomez, and Elijah Reynolds, according to the Belleville News.
When asked for a remark, they just stated that it was the proper thing to do. “He stood up for us.” “Now it’s our turn,” said Pfc. Diaz, a 21-year-old Texas native. From 1959 until 1963, Lou Zezoff served in the Navy. Lou served as an E5 (Petty Officer Second Class) on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea in Vietnam in 1961 and 1962. He was a parachute rigger aboard the ship, but he also served as an aircraft pilot. From pre-flight inspections through a return to the ship, he was in charge of a plane. Lou returned to civilian life after serving in the military and worked as a police officer for 32 years.
In the 1970s, he served as a detective, then as a court security officer for the US Marshals Service before retiring in 1996. Lou Zezoff’s story reminds us of the importance of showing gratitude to those who have served, and how even a simple gesture may make a great difference. As can be seen here, the acts of these young Marines in the restaurant left an indelible impression on this veteran’s life. We owe the courageous men and women who risk their lives for our freedom and protection the utmost respect and thanks! We should be thankful and appreciative for what our veterans have done for us. Their dedication to our country came at a high cost: separation from their loved ones and anguish.