His name was Stanley Scott, and he made a difference.

On the first day of first grade, I was scared. The old yellow school bus blew its horn as it came down the hill and rolled to a squeaking stop in front of my house. It wasn’t so long and rectangular as today’s buses, but looked like something from a children’s story book. It was shorter, and rounder, and it had big black fenders curved around the front tires.

The kids on the bus were different, too. Students from grades 1-12 all rode the same bus.

I climbed unsteadily aboard and walked my five-year-old self down the aisle and settled timidly into an empty seat. A couple of older boys on the bus who thought it might be fun to pick on the new kid but it didn’t last long, because about three stops down the road Stanley Scott got on the bus, and Stanley made them stop. He thought being nice to little kids was more important than being “cool.”

I remember a day when Stanley got his mom to bring him out to my house, and he gave me some of his old toys that he had outgrown. A toy tractor he brought was special to me for as long as it lasted.

There was another day when Stanley rode into my yard on a Honda motor scooter, and he took me for a ride on the old dirt road that ran along our property. No reason. Just being nice to a kid who didn’t have a motor scooter. Just doing something for somebody else.

I didn’t hear from Stanley for some time after graduated, but I remember the day when I heard that he had been killed in Vietnam, fighting for his country. Fighting for me, I thought. I went to his funeral several weeks later and they opened the casket, but they shouldn’t have. I didn’t want that to be my last mental picture of Stanley. I wanted to remember him as a young man who made the choice to love a kid because it was the right thing to do – because, I think, he knew that’s what Jesus wanted him to do.

And that’s why, when I think of Veteran’s Day, I think of Stanley Scott, and I give thanks for him and for all those who’ve been willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.

I hope they feel a little gratitude today.

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