Bryant Scott knew he was in for a long trip, a lot of waiting and some personal grief.
But he didn’t expect the two people holding the sign.
The Marine lance corporal was stationed on Okinawa, Japan, in April when his grandfather – Korean War veteran J.D. Scott – suffered a stroke and unexpectedly passed away.
Bryant put in a request for emergency leave so he could travel to Granbury, Texas, to attend the funeral. Once his command approved the request, Bryant waited three days at Kadena Air Base before securing a seat on a military flight to Travis Air Force Base, California.
“I had no real logistical plan besides return stateside and improvise as much as possible,” Bryant wrote in an email.
During a layover in Hawaii, Bryant called a cab company and arranged for it pick him up at Travis and drive him to the Sacramento International Airport – the closest commercial airport to the base – where he’d try to find a flight home. That’s when the USO stepped in.
While Bryant was flying over the ocean, his family readiness officer told the USO Pacific office about the situation. USO staff there reached out to the USO Regional Office back in the United States to see if anyone at USO Bay Area could drive Bryant to Sacramento so he wouldn’t have to pay for a long, expensive cab ride late at night. Chris and Mary Ann Mezzapelle, who were volunteering at USO Travis at the time, heard about the Marine’s situation and offered to pick him up and drive him wherever he needed to go.
Bryant landed at Travis around 10:30 p.m. and – much to his surprise – saw the Mezzapelles, who were waiting for him with a “Lance Cpl. Bryant Scott” sign and a USO gift basket.
“I was still somewhat shocked,“ Bryant wrote. "I think I asked for their identification to make sure they were legitimate [USO volunteers], or something along those lines.”
After a series of explanations, introductions and assuring Bryant that he wouldn’t have to pay for any cab rides that night, the Mezzapelles helped the Marine book a more convenient flight home out of San Francisco International Airport for the next morning and drove him to that airport. At some point during the drive, the Mezzapelles stopped at Denny’s and treat Bryant to a meal.
“They didn’t ask for anything in return, no matter the amount of times I offered to pay them for gas, food and their time,” Bryant wrote. “I still am just so overwhelmed by their kindness.”
Once they arrived at San Francisco International, where the Mezzapelles also volunteer, Mary Ann escorted Bryant to the 24-hour USO center so he could get some rest before his early flight the next morning.
“It sounds kind of selfish, but it makes us feel great,” Chris said. “We really enjoy doing [volunteer work at the USO]. I used the USO when I was in the service back in the early seventies.”
The next morning, rested and refueled with USO refreshments, Bryant took off for Texas, making it home in time to pay his respects to his grandfather.
“After all the horrible events that had happened to my family, along with the animosity and adversity I encountered while trying to make it home, I was overcome with heartfelt joy and gratitude,” Bryant wrote. “I didn’t know what to say to show my appreciation, hopefully my face and constant ‘thank you’s (which probably became annoying after a while) was enough to show how truly appreciative I am/was.”
Bryant even wrote a poem in honor of the Mezzapelles:
A miracle does not always have to be a mighty act of God Or some great deed Or overcoming the impossible Or walking barefoot on the sea Miracles come unexpectedly As an answer to a prayer To how an act of love And that someone truly cares It can be lending a hand to a neighbor It can be helping a friend in need It can be doing someone a favor Without asking for anything With any act of kindness Mighty, great, or small Miracles can happen all the time When you reach out and lift other from despair I know because there was a time when I was in need and you were the ones who were truly there