During the flight, a rich businessman abused a war veteran because of the smell of sweat emanating from him. Shortly after landing, he received a call from the hospital, and tearfully regretted insulting the veteran.
Joseph Miller, 53, is proud of the bridal shops he ran in the town. Each department has an extensive collection of expensive designer suits, wedding gowns and everything else a person might need to make their wedding special.
Climbing the ladder of success hasn’t been easy for this business tycoon. Born to poor parents who could barely make ends meet, Joseph did not have a happy childhood. Hunger and poverty taught him the value of money and as he grew up he began to think only of himself.
He believed there was only one way to succeed: to fight for himself without relying on others. “And no one helps for free without expecting something in return,” he thought, motivating himself. Finally, his efforts paid off. He got a scholarship that allowed him to go to university without paying a cent.
Joseph studied hard and graduated summa cum laude. He was ready to fight the world, determined to prove that he could have everything that people said he could not have because of his poverty…
Time flew by all too quickly as Joseph committed himself body and soul to the pinnacle of success. And he did! He had everything he dreamed of: a fortune that would last several generations, a beautiful wife and a wonderful son whose future Joseph had already decided.
“But, Dad, I want to serve the country. Money isn’t everything in life and after seeing my best friend Mark’s father serving in the army, I want to be a soldier too,” said 22-year-old Kevin.
Joseph was confused because he wanted Kevin to take over the family business after him. He was silent and did not understand his son’s choice. His love for Kevin was stronger than his dreams for his future, so he agreed to let him go.
Joseph was proud of his son, but he missed him every second. Three years later, the next big step in their lives was the birth of Eric, Kevin and his wife Sally’s first boy.
Joseph was the happiest man on earth after the birth of his grandson, and he celebrated that joy by opening a new store in another state. After attending an important client meeting at the new branch, he flew back to his hometown. A few minutes after the plane took off, the flight attendant indicated Mr. Aarons, a veteran with minor burns on his hands and face, a seat next to Joseph.
Joseph furrowed his brow and scowled, expressing his bewilderment. He covered his nose with his handkerchief and tried to remain calm, but could do no more, for the smell of sweat from Mr. Aaron’s clothes penetrated his nose and disgusted him.
Joseph continued to dust his suit and sniffed his jacket a few times to see if the smell of sweat was embedded in the suit. He couldn’t contain himself and started yelling at Mr. Aarons, who was coughing and asking the stewardess for water.
“YOU STINKER, GET AWAY FROM ME! My expensive suit will smell like rot from your filthy, sweaty clothes! Get up out of that seat!”
Joseph continued to yell at Mr. Aarons, while everyone on board turned around and began whispering something. A stewardess rushed to the scene and handed Mr. Aarons some water, protecting him.
“Sir, please remain calm. You can’t be rude to a passenger.”
“This man smells rotten. It makes me want to vomit. Get him out of here.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience, but, sir, you can’t say these things and be rude to people,” the stewardess replied, leading Mr. Aarons to another seat.
The excitement subsided, Joseph smiled, and continued reading the magazine. An hour later, the flight arrived at its destination, and before the passengers could disembark, the pilot made an announcement that caused heads to turn and applaud.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain, says…… Before we leave, let’s take this opportunity to thank the three true heroes of our country who are on board with us today, veterans Mr. Murphy, Mr. Williams and Mr. Aarons!”
Applause filled the cabin as the three veterans, including Mr. Aarons, stood up to thank everyone. All the passengers applauded, except Joseph. His ego was hurt when he realized that he had mocked a former soldier who had dedicated himself to the service of his country. He felt ashamed of himself and immediately got off the plane.
As he pulled out his phone to call his driver to pick up his luggage, he received a call from the hospital about something terrible that had happened to Kevin at the camp.
“Mr. Miller, your son was a victim of a camp fire last week. We sent him to your town because this is the closest hospital that offers the best treatment for burn patients.”
“WHAT?” Joseph was surprised by the news. He immediately stopped the cab to go to the hospital, unprepared for the next big revelation he would witness.
“Yes, sir, the service is here,” the receptionist said to a panicked Joseph. He ran up to the room and stormed inside, but froze in shock. Mr. Aarons, the veteran he mocked and called a “stinker,” was standing next to Kevin’s bed with a bouquet.
“What are you doing here?” – Joseph exclaimed in shock, but he was interrupted by his son’s faint voice.
“DADDY, HE SAVED MY LIFE!”
“You wouldn’t have seen me alive today if Mr. Aarons hadn’t rushed into the burning building to get me out. It was his last day on base, and he risked his life to save mine, Dad.”
Joseph was shaken to the core, his eyes filled with anxiety and shame. He didn’t know that the man he called “stinker” had rushed into the flames to save Kevin’s life when the camp fire broke out. Tears came to Joseph’s eyes and he fell to his knees, begging Mr. Aarons for forgiveness.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Aarons. Please forgive me. I never believed in human self-sacrifice and thought it only happened in fairy tales.”
The veteran lifted Joseph up and patted him on the shoulders. “Can I talk to my son for a minute, Mr. Aarons?” – Joseph asked.
“Yes, of course. I’ll wait outside.”
Moments later, Joseph called Mr. Aarons into the house and embraced him, offering to be godfather to his grandson Eric.
Mr. Aarons was stunned by such an unusual offer and wondered what prompted Joseph and Kevin to make such a hasty decision.
“Because my grandson would have lost his father had you not rescued him in time. Even if I were to shower you with all the money I have earned in my life, or offer you mountains of gold, it would not make up for your bravery and kindness.”
Shortly thereafter, Kevin recovered and returned home for the holidays. After little Eric’s baptism, Joseph and his family hosted a dinner party with Mr. Aarons as a special guest.
Joseph gave a toast to a selfless veteran who risked his own life to save the life of a comrade.
“To a man who is not only my son’s savior, but also my little brother!” – he began.
“Never judge a book by its cover,” I had heard people say, but I never knew the depth of that moral until I saw my son alive. I learned that not all heroes wear capes, and I salute the soldier who showed me what kindness and self-sacrifice are….. Cheers!!!”