I know shopping online is the craze nowadays, but it can be bland. I recall that thrill in trying out the latest gadgets at the local Five & Dime, the intrigue I felt in browsing through that Army Surplus store, the entice in a candy shop, and the joy I had in playing around at the toy store.
My wife and I, as many do, have a fascination with flea markets, variety stores, and antiques.
In the spring of 2013, my wife and I decided to visit a small antique store one weekend. The shop’s owned by a 60-year-old lady who’s been at that Avon, Indiana location for 15 years.
In a glass case, at the front of the store, was an illustrious Purple Heart that caught my eye.
I asked my wife and the shopkeeper, “Who sells a Purple Heart?”
In January that year, a young man came into that shop to sell some medals his grandfather owned. His grandfather was a deceased World War II veteran and he was in possession of a couple badges of courage his granddad had earned.
The first was a Bronze Star, the fourth-highest individual military award a soldier can receive. It’s awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
The second was a Purple Heart, a decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving. The medal was established by George Washington in 1782.
The shopkeeper had never purchased a Bronze Star before and had no idea what it was worth so she declined to purchase it. However, she had purchased Purple Hearts before so she offered to buy it for $25. The young man accepted her offer.
A couple weeks later, at lunchtime, on Feb. 11, 2013, someone came into that store wearing a hoodie pulled down over their face. The shopkeeper was away from the counter, but saw who came in. She didn’t think much about it, some school kid she thought.
When he went behind the counter to steal her purse she realized what was going on and rushed him. In that purse was $500 cash, her checkbook and credit cards - her life. She struggled with him before he hit her in the face. He then threw her into a glass case, shattering the pane and ran out the door.
The shopkeeper ran out the door after him, yelling for help. An oral surgeon happened to be walking by and heard her cry.
The crook and an accomplice drove off, but the dentist got their license plate number and called 911.
The two white male suspects were arrested within an hour and both admitted their guilt.
Providence was no doubt with the shopkeeper that day, for the one who robbed her had a gun in his pocket he didn’t use. In court the shopkeeper said he had an evil stare, “It was like he had no soul,” she claimed.
The driver, 31, was found guilty of aiding and abetting.
The 26-year-old robber was the one who sold his Grandfather’s medals a couple weeks prior. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
About a half an hour after my wife and I entered the store a middle-aged female college professor from IU came into the shop with her son and began asking about the Purple Heart as well. She purchased it for $40.00 and said she would do everything in her power to see that it was returned to the family of that brave veteran.
Liberty is freedom, an independence the Grandfather thought was worth fighting for. But, his grandson thought little of it. In the end, a grandchild sacrificed his liberty for the confines of a 6- x 9-foot cell.
Not to be lost in it all was the sacrifice that grandfather made. Nor should it be forgotten the willingness of souls like that shopkeeper, the good Samaritan and Professor, who thought liberty was worth something and stood up when evil arose.
Was justice served? Who knows? But, innocent lives were forever changed and the stigma of a prison record will follow others. There are heroes in everyday life. Some may not get recognition, yet they’re beacons in a dark world never the less.
Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, is published bi-monthly. He’s an author, nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit in Jamestown, Indiana, a non-profit organization aiding the poor. He can be reached at www.builderofthespirit.org or follow him on Twitter @GregAllencolumn.