the 74-year-old Vietnam veteran Lou Zezoff lives in Granite City, Illinois, with his wife Annette. He decided to stop to have a nice dinner with his wife at Cracker Barrel restaurant, but he had no idea that he would end up in tears thanks to some amazing Marines.
After he walked in, Lou noticed a table of younger guys nearby.
He didn’t think much of it until the guys swarmed his table one by one, repeatedly disrupting his meal.
Soon, their conduct caught the attention of the entire restaurant as the veteran started to cry.
74-year-old Lou Zezoff lives in Granite City, Illinois, with his wife Annette.
Not long ago, they went out to eat at a Cracker Barrel and the couple was looking forward to having a good time together. As usually, Lou was wearing his “US Navy Vietnam Veteran” cap when he went out.
The couple got to the restaurant and after being seated, Lou noticed five guys sitting at a nearby table.
He didn’t know it then, but the young men noticed Lou and his hat too, and they were going to make this one evening he’d never forget.
After Lou and his wife ordered, the young men sprung into action. Lou was just enjoying his meal quietly when one of the young men came over and stood at Lou’s table.
“I stood up,” Lou recalled as he came eyeball-to-eyeball with the young guy.
The young man threw out his hand wanted to thank Lou for his sacrifice.
The gesture caught Lou by surprise; after all, it isn’t the type of scene that unfolds at dining establishments every day.
Lou thought it ended there, until the rest of the group stood up and expressed their gratitude.
“I knew they were military by their haircuts — high and tight,” Lou said, explaining how he knew they were service members.
In fact, the young men were Marines.
And as I mentioned, it didn’t stop with one handshake.
When the first man returned to his table, another got up and walked over to Lou. Once again, the veteran stood up and didn’t really know what was waiting for him.
The second young man then said, “I want to thank you for all five of us,” motioning to the others.
Lou thanked the young men for their kind words and they talked briefly.
Lou expressed his appreciation and was wishing allt the men well with their future military careers. After that, he returned to his meal, thinking that was the end of it.
But minutes after Lou and his wife finished their dinner, he beckoned for a waiter to bring over the check.
When the waiter arrived to their table, he was waving the bill with a big smile on his face, and said, “This is your lucky day.”
The young Marines had bought Lou’s dinner.
Also, there was a message on the receipt.
One of the Marines had wrote “Semper Fi” across the top with an “Oorah!” at the bottom.
Lou, completely taken by surprise, went over to their table and put his arm around one of the guys, insisting they didn’t have to pay for his dinner. A simple “thank you” was enough.
“You don’t have to do this. I know, being in the military, you don’t make a lot of money,” Lou told them.
But the Marines stood firm.
“They wanted me to know how much they appreciated me,” Lou said.
As Lou and Annette were about to leave, something else happened that left all other guests in awe.
Knowing they were about to part ways, the young Marines wanted to give the veteran one last show of respect.
While the fifth man was off paying the bill, the other four walked up to Lou’s table and extended their hand to shake the veteran’s one last time, he recalled, admitting he tears up talking about it.
Each one of them thanked and hugged him, one by one. As Lous described the incident, tears were again filling his eyes.
“They filed in front of my table, stood in line, and each one of them again put his hand out, shook my hand, thanked me, hugged me, and walked to my right”, Lou recalled.
The atmosphere in the restaurant, which once was noisy and chatty, was replaced with an unusual quiet as onlookers watched the Marines’ conduct.
After the fourth Marine gave Lou “the sharpest salute” he’d ever seen, they turned and walked out. Lou was in ”awe” and felt the deepest gratitude for the men who so emphatically expressed their appreciation for his service.
“The room got very quiet. Everyone was looking,” Lou said, dabbing a tear from the corner of his eye. “Sorry … I still tear up when I talk about this. …”
Other people stood and applauded.
Lou couldn’t help but turn to his wife, who said he better sit down and catch his breath after the moving moment.
Lou’s wife Annette was moved by the scene.
“It just speaks volumes for the military. I thought of my son, who is retired Air Force, and the people who thank him for his service. It’s rewarding to see that the military is so strong and so polite.”
According to Belleville News, the five Marines were later identified as Kevin Morris, Val Diaz, Eric A. Morales, Victor M. Andrade Gomez, and Elijah Reynolds — all private first class.
When the paper reached out for comment, they simply said it was the right thing to do.
“He fought for us. Now it’s our turn,” said the 21-year-old Pfc. Diaz, from Texas.
Lou Zezoff served in the Navy from 1959 to 1963. During Vietnam, Lou, an E5 (Petty Officer Second Class), served on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea in 1961 and ’62.
He was designated a parachute rigger, but served as a plane captain on the carrier. He was responsible for a plane from pre-flight checks until it returned to the ship.
After the service, when Lou returned to civilian life, he continued to serve as a police officer for 32 years. He became a detective in the 1970s, then later worked court security with the U.S. Marshal’s Service before retiring in 1996.
Lou Zezoff’s narrative reminds us how important it is to show our appreciation for those who have served and how even a small gesture can make a big impact.
These young Marines act at the restaurant certainly made a mark on this veteran’s life, as can be seen below.
Respect and gratitude are the least we can give the brave men and women who risk their lives for our freedoms and protection! We should be grateful and acknowledge what our veterans have done for us all.
Their commitment to our nation came with great sacrifice – enduring distance from their loved ones and trauma we can only imagine.
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