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Stokes: If you had a rough day on the water, consider this story

All of us have heard stories of unbelievable courage in times of danger. Yet there is the other side of the story as well -- the personal connection of the individual, which gives the reason why.

While many of the stories may stretch the facts a bit, the tales make for outstanding reading nonetheless.

During this time of transition, we often find ourselves sitting and waiting for a break in the weather. Outdoor pursuits are a matter of wait and see. During the slow down, we reflect on the past and sometimes discover a bit of history that makes us the unique individuals we have become.

Several years ago, there was a story about a man who would feed seagulls at the end of a dock. During the routine, he gave thanks for their sacrifice.

For those of you who know of Eddie Rickenbacker, the story is no surprise. But for those who do not know of him or his exploits, the following tells of the gratitude of a single individual for an unexpected blessing and repayment of the act.

In his autobiography, Medal of Honor recipient Rickenbacker tells of the time he was a pilot during World War I. A crash at sea left him and his seven-man crew adrift for 24 days in the Pacific Ocean. When the rations ran out, they were still hundreds of miles from land and, having been off course, rescue seemed unlikely.

All survived the ordeal due in no small part to what many would call a sign from above. A lone seagull was captured and eaten while the internal organs were saved for bait. Catching fish to sustain themselves, they managed to survive until help arrived.

Many years after his ordeal, Eddie felt obligated to return the favor. To those who may have witnessed the ritual, it likely appeared unimportant. But to Eddie it was a payment long overdue. At the call of dawn, whenever possible, Eddie would arrive with a bucket of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude. Shortly after reaching the end of the pier he would be joined by his dinner companions, flocks of seagulls. The routine was repeated time and time again, until all the shrimp were gone; He would toss a shrimp into the air and with each grasp by a hungry seagull he gave thanks.

Eddie went on to further greatness during his lifetime after the service. Among his accomplishments he was a race car driver, an airline executive and an aviation consultant, and president of Eastern Airlines.

If you are interested in further reading about this extraordinary individual, an excellent source would be the book "Eye of the Storm" by Max Lucado. Or you can check Wikipedia for highlights and a brief outline of his accomplishments.

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