Breakfast with the General

I’ve had coffee and the occasional breakfast with US Army Colonels, Captains, and other officers. However, this is the story of when I managed to corner a former US Army General and invited him to breakfast.

Several years ago I had one hell of an opportunity. The great part of the opportunity was that it was entirely by chance and was brought about by me not listening to my supervisor and attending an event for which I was not scheduled. I arrived at approximately 6 AM with the rest of the security staff; we stood around shooting the shit and just got ready for the pain that the day’s duties would surely bring. It turned out that I would be working the floor for a graduate-school ceremony and that a certain guest speaker would be gracing the ceremony with his presence.

I took up my standard position with the police department (right next to the Police Chief so he and I could bullshit our way through the ceremony while assuring an adequate level of protection for any important folks who happened to come onto the floor). The Chief and I babbled almost incessantly during the ceremony but we were so hopped-up on free coffee and muffins that we really couldn’t care less. It was only during the introduction phase of the speakers that I found out who this eventual speaker actually was. In his introduction I heard him mention that he was both a former US Army General and a former member of the Chiefs of Staff. The first thought that surged through my head was “I have to meet this man and get him one-on-one”. Such a thought would have made my military grandfather proud and I can’t say that it didn’t at least play a significant role in my decision-making that day.

After the speech was finalized the General left the stage and started walking through the staff-only corridors past the area I was guarding with the police department. I figured “Fuck it, this is my only chance” and I actually tried to run and catch up with him. His handler had no clue what was going on but acquiesced to the idea of a former officer talking to a civilian fairly quickly. I basically chased him down in the staff corridor and introduced myself to him as he stood there dumbfounded. He shook my hand and we struck up a conversation.

During the course of conversation I said to him (this was a little before 8 AM): “You know, we have free coffee and muffins in the break room. Would you like to come up for some breakfast?”

He responded “Hell yeah!” and the General and I walked side-by-side to the break room. I had essentially now made friends with a retired US Army General and we talked the entire way to the break room. Once we hit the breakfast table, though, the real conversation began.

Once we arrived to the break room he went straight for the muffins. My only regret was that I didn’t beat him to the table; we had chocolate-chip muffins and I would have happily fought him for the eating of said muffins. Anyway, we grabbed our food and coffee and found a table where we could talk one-on-one sitting across from each other. The real discussion began here with his handler sitting at a table that was close-but-not-really so the General and I could get to know each other.

I think I actually learned more about the military from this man in a single hour-and-a-half than anything I’d ever studied prior to this meeting. We even wound up joking about what I call the “Worst Mistake the US Navy Ever Made” (i.e. letting me drive an aircraft carrier when I was little and almost ramming it straight into a pier). When I told him the story his actual response was “Yeah, that sounds like the Navy!” I actually learned how portions of the Pentagon were laid out from this guy and we just generally enjoyed each other’s company. I told him some stories from my grandfather and practically had him in stitches.

When it finally came time for him to leave we bid each other goodbye in a bittersweet fashion. I swear talking to him was basically like talking to my grandfather since the General and I had bonded fairly quickly. I bid him goodbye and he took off in his limousine after we said our customary goodbyes to each other.

This account has to be the most memorable experience I’ve ever had in regard to working security.

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