Even though Dr. Rebecca Landis Hayes has every right to utilize parking spaces designated for veterans of the armed forces, she usually chooses not to.
The parking spaces are meant to operate on an honor system, and one would hope a veteran could park there without accusatory glances from passersby.
“I don’t feel comfortable,” Hayes admitted, of parking in the veteran spots. “I’m perfectly capable of walking and I’m always afraid someone might call me out.”
And someone did call her out, with an anonymous, indignant note left on her windshield in the summer of 2016. Hayes, who served in the U.S. Navy from 2000-2008, rising to the rank of Lt. Commander, was shocked.
“This parking is for veterans, lady,” the scathing note stated. “Learn to read & have some respect.”
Hayes couldn’t help but wonder if the angry, self-appointed parking lot police thought she couldn’t possibly be a female veteran.
“This was the first time someone singled me out and said I couldn’t be something because I was a woman,” Hayes told PEOPLE.
Angry and saddened, Hayes took a photo of the note and posted her thoughts on social media. “I’m sorry that your narrow misogynistic world view can’t conceive of the fact that there are female Veterans,” Hayes, now a private practice family physician, wrote.
“I’m sorry that I have to explain myself to people like you. Mostly, I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to have this conversation face to face, and that you didn’t have the integrity and intestinal fortitude to identify yourself, qualities the military emphasizes.”
The post went viral, spreading quickly across the Concord, North Carolina, community. About a week later, Hayes received a follow-up note on her windshield, which perhaps shocked her even more.
The hand-written note was an apology letter, written after the person saw Hayes’ Facebook post. The person admitted to assuming Hayes was not a veteran, and wrote the note as a way to stand up for those who are.
“I appreciate your service to this country and I highly respect military men and women,” the note read. “It was an error in judgement, and again, I’m sorry for that.”
Hayes was floored and appreciative of the apology, which she never expected. “I think in today’s world, we tend not to apologize for things,” she told Inside Edition.
Hayes never did find out who wrote the notes, but in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.
Hayes was glad to know that someone out there was willing to right the wrong, and perhaps the story will prevent others from committing the same offense.
“I guess they kind of did some self-reflection,” Hayes said. “The apology seems to be sincere and I do appreciate that.”
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