05/03/07 — All it took to get him to stay was a 'thank you'

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All it took to get him to stay was a 'thank you'

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 3, 2007 1:45 PM

It started with a simple meal.

Nothing fancy -- just a quick lunch stop for an airman and his wife at a Goldsboro restaurant.

But when their table was cleared and the waitress said "No charge," Lt. Col. Dean Doering calls the moments that followed some of the most significant of his life.

"I was thinking about retiring," the 4th Fighter Wing Medical Support Squadron commander said. "Let's just say, I was feeling unappreciated."

He was beginning to see serving his country as a thankless charge.

And then along came a perfect stranger.

"The waitress said, 'That guy over there in the striped shirt took care of your check,'" Doering said.

And then she went to the next table and the next.

"It was a cool thing," Doering said. "Every military person eating there, this guy covered their meal. We were all looking around like, 'Did that just happen?' I don't know how many bills he picked up -- must have been 15 or 20."

The airman thought a thank you was in order.

But when he approached the man, he found that one had already been extended.

"I shook his hand and all he said was, 'Thank you.' He didn't offer his name or anything," Doering said. "His gift made me say, 'Wow, I am appreciated.' I made my decision that day."

The actions of that anonymous man gave him a much-needed boost, he added.

"It re-blued me," Doering said. "I know I've got several more years to give now."

And he feels lucky to have been stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and in Wayne County when times got hard.

"Quite frankly, this is the tightest community I have been at -- it's warm, it's friendly and people need to know that," Doering said. "I would have been gone by now if it weren't for the gift of that perfect stranger. Things like that just seem to happen here."