One of the worst things that you can see while driving is the blue and red color of a police car flashing on your mirrors. Usually, when you get pulled over by the police, the ending is not nice. It leads to an expensive ticket, or at the very least a significant loss of time. For the man in our story today, it led him down a path that he would never have expected. It created a memory that he will never forget.
The protagonist of our story is a simple man called William Jazwinski. He was driving his truck like any other day, on his way to the supermarket. At some point, he checked his rearview mirror and saw a police car. He was quite sure that he wasn’t speeding, but as it is normal, he got a bit nervous about the situation. But who knows, maybe this car was just randomly behind him. That’s what he hoped.
As he was trying to relax and to rationalize that he had done nothing wrong the police car sped up. In William’s mind, that probably meant that they were going to overtake him. He felt relieved and at the same time, he was thinking how fast his mind assumed the worst. That was the moment he heard the sound he was afraid he was going to hear from the very beginning.
The police sirens started wailing, making him understand that the police car wasn’t just randomly following him. It was the signal that he had to pull over. He was wondering what he had done wrong but of course, he was going to listen to the police. He found the nearest spot and he pulled over. He remained in his car, trying to look as unsuspicious as he can. Not that he had done anything, but that’s the effect police have on people.
The police car stopped behind him and after a few seconds, a police officer got out of the car. The walk from the police car to William’s car was only a few meters, but to William, it all looked to be going incredibly slow. His blood was pumping faster as the police officer was coming closer. A fine was the last thing he needed this period of his life. What could this police officer have stopped him for?
When the police officer finally got to William’s window, he signaled him to roll it down. William being a good law-abiding citizen that he is listens to the officer’s command. After rolling down the window, William greeted the officer and the officer greeted back. So far so good. Then William asked the logical question that you ask in this kind of situation.
“Was I speeding officer?”. He was begging and praying on the inside that the answer he receives will not be “Yes”. He didn’t want to spend 150$ for something like that. The police officer took some time to answer this question. It seemed like he was thinking of something and William’s question distracted him. His response was more surprising than William could expect.
He told William that he wasn’t speeding and that everything was ok with his car, he has nothing to worry about. This made William relax a bit, at least he wasn’t going to get fined. Then what did the police officer want with him? This was the question in his mind when the officer said to him a phrase that he wasn’t expecting to hear.
“I wanted to thank you for your service to our country”. William was shocked. For a few seconds, he didn’t even understand what the officer was talking about. What service did he do to the officer? Nothing of it was making any sense to him. But then he realized what was happening. It was all the fault of a sticker in the back of his car.
When the office said “thank you for your service”, of course, the first thing William thought was of his service in the U.S. military. The only problem was that how can a police officer that doesn’t know William have any idea that he was in the military? That’s why it didn’t make sense to him that he was thanking him for that. But after a bit of thinking, he realized that there was a way for the officer to know.
He had put a sticker in the back of his truck that said “Proud to be a Veteran”. This sticker had gotten him some passing waves from people, or the occasional honk from other cars. He wasn’t expecting to be pulled over by the police so they can thank him. The truth is, that there was another reason why the police officer had stopped him. Something that he will remember for the rest of his life.
Of course, when he remembered about the sticker, he understood the situation. He quickly responded to the officer, thanking him for his kind words. Although he was surprised, it always feels nice for someone to thank you. He thought that the conversation would end there and they would both go their merry ways, but the story was just beginning
The police officer started asking him questions about his military service. Where did you do it, for how long, how was it? All these questions caught William by surprise, but he thought that there was nothing wrong with answering a few questions about his life. In the end, it was probably just a curious police officer wanting to see who is serving their country. But there was more than that.
He told the police officer that he had served as an operator for heavy-wheeled vehicles and that he had just come back from a Middle East country. “I went to Iraq,” William said. “Did a 15 monther out of Fort Benning.” Now he just wanted to live his life as a civilian. Now that the questions had been answered, it was time for the cop to share his own story.
“My son was in Iraq,” he said. Now it made a bit more sense to William. That was a concerned parent, wanting to know how things were for his son and it makes sense. Being in the military is not an easy job. It is dangerous and there are a lot of people that after coming back they suffer from something called PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. It is something that is very commonly diagnosed with war veterans since the stuff they witness sometimes is very powerful.
He could see that something was bothering the officer. All these questions that he made to him, probably are questions that he had made to his son as well. Why would he feel the need to ask a completely unrelated veteran about Iraq? It was at this moment that the police officer shared with William something that broke his heart.
“He didn’t make it home”. These were the exact words of the officer. William felt thunderstruck. The person that he had in front of him wasn’t a concerned parent. It was a grieving parent. There is nothing worst than losing your beloved son to a faraway land, fighting for wars that you don’t really understand, and with motives that you never heard about. William wasn’t ready for this encounter.
All he could say was “Man, I’m so sorry to hear that.” He knew that offering his condolences doesn’t do anything to fix the situation, but at that moment he felt so powerless that he just needed to say the first words that came to his mind, hoping that they are the right ones. It seemed like the officer regained his composure after this phrase. He was about to bid him farewell when he noticed something.
On the dashboard of the car, there was a folded flag. The officer was all too familiar with this flag. It was the same flag that the military gave him as a memento of his son’s service to the country. This flag brought back the memory of his son’s death a bit too vivid, he seemed to be very affected by the sight of this flag. That’s when he asked something of William that caught him off guard.
He asked him if he could hug him. This is a simple request but if you consider the circumstances it sounds completely insane. A person that you don’t know, asks you all of a sudden to hug you. Especially in a society that it is considered “taboo” for men to show their sensitive side, this is something crazy. William didn’t know what to answer.
On the one hand, he understood that the request was a bit weird, but after all the things they talked about their personal life and his military service, he could feel that what for him was a simple act of hugging, for the poor father of the lost child was something much more important. The police officer after making this unorthodox request burst into tears. William made his decision.
He got out of his car and hugged the crying father. It was not a hug between two strangers. It was a hug given from a father to a son. At that moment, William was representing all the lost children in the war, and the police officer all the families that got left behind. It was a sight that required. The officer had one more confession to make. A very heartbreaking confession.
The reason he stopped William was not only because he saw the sticker at the back of his car.” You remind me of my son. I pulled you over, thought you were him. I still don’t believe it most days he’s gone.” the police officer said. Something snapped inside of William, he started crying on the shoulder of the father. He felt his words deeply and got moved by them. These two men were sharing their pain.
William at the moment didn’t even realize it himself, but that hug was something that he desperately needed. After coming back from an experience like that, your brain tries to protect you from the painful memories by pushing them aside. It was obvious that he had some unresolved issues still deep inside him. There is something that he had just tried to do to escape from these painful memories.
Just a few days ago, he had completed a PTSD program that was supposed to help him better adjust to his new life. It appears that the faceless PTSD program is nothing compared to the warm embrace of another human being. When you see that other people are suffering, and maybe even more than you, it gives you strength and makes you feel less alone. That is what was happening with William at the moment.
The hug lasted a few seconds with the two men crying and sharing kind words. After a while, they both took and stepped back and got to their cars. This was a morning that they were not going to forget. Without even exchanging their names, they shared an experience that gave both of them the strength to move forward with their lives. This moment was especially important for William.
He felt so moved and loved at this moment, that he decided to share this story with the media. He felt that it was his duty to share a story like that, so other people can learn as well the importance of a simple hug. He described everything, from start to finish, giving his own thoughts about this particular event. He never expected to receive this reaction from the internet.
A lot of people felt identified with the story of William. Thousands upon thousands of people commented on the story, sharing their personal stories and showing their compassion for the situation. Many people have lost friends or family to the war, or even their brothers in arms. Everybody understands that sometimes you need a warm hug from a stranger to move forward in your life.
Some people suggested, that it was fate that these two people would meet. At the exact moment that both of them needed some sort of sign, this was the moment that they got it. On the one hand, a father finding a son, and on the other hand, a lost soldier finding hope again. Truly a story worth sharing. And it affected Williams’s life greatly.
Now he has his own family and is the father of a beautiful little girl. He still says that this experience gave him a new perspective on the topic of family, and now that he is a father himself, he completely understands the pain the police officer felt back then. He is spending his time cherishing the time he has with his family.