You’ve probably seen some people on Facebook using their birthday as a way to raise money for charitable organizations, which is a lovely way to monetize the hype of the special day and give back to society.
But World War II veteran Edmund Rusinek did one better: To celebrate his birthday, he donated $1500 of his own money to feed military families.
Even more shocking? This isn’t his first time doing this, as he has made a habit of picking up tabs for decades — but it all started with an act of kindness he received in 1945.
“This tradition, so to speak, got started in 1945 when I was a draftee training in Little Rock, Arkansas,” he told the Orange County Register. “To take a break from the GI food, some of my buddies and I left base for some good ol’ Southern food.”
“At the restaurant, an elderly gentleman stepped up to us and asked, ‘Can you do me a favor? Will you let me buy your lunch? If you want to thank me, pass it down.'”
“Someone did it for me, and I want to do it for others.”
After spending two years as a staff sergeant on the Czechoslovakian border, he earned an engineering degree in Michigan and then worked at North American Aviation (which then became Rockwell, and then Boeing) until 1996. He and his wife had three children together, and he’s been a regular at his neighborhood Chick-fil-A.
Knowing the rigors of the military and the value of a good meal, Rusinek lives in the perfect place to pay it forward, near the Joint Forces Training Base and the Naval Weapons Station in Los Alamitos, California.
“Fortunately, I live near an air base and a Navy base,” he said. “There are lots of kids in the military around here, and they all look so young to me.”
In preparation for his 92nd birthday on Feb. 19, Rusinek went into Chick-fil-A 11 days early to set up his generous giveaway. Manager Giola Arkis agreed to his terms and had nothing but positive words to say about him.
“Edmund is a regular customer. He always comes in for a salad, cookies and coffee,” she said. “We call him our local sweet thing.”
Rusinek spent some time at Chick-fil-A to greet service members as they got their free meals and see the effects of his kindness. While there’s no exact tally on the donation total yet, the manager thinks the figure is somewhere around $1500 — which surprised Rusinek.
“Really? I guess I’ll know for sure when I get my credit card bill in the mail,” he said. But he didn’t seem too put out.
“I’m not a rich man,” he said, “but this, I can afford.”
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