KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A stranger’s unexpected show of appreciation last weekend still has Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias shaking his head.
On Sunday, a man who would identify himself only as “Daniel” insisted on buying a computer for Tobias, whom he encountered during a shopping trip to the OfficeMax store in Ashtabula Township.
“This has never happened to me before,” said Tobias of Kingsville Township, fighting his emotions as he recalled the incident. “People have come up and said thanks. But this? I was totally shocked.”
Tobias, 66, had settled on a new computer and was at the store’s service counter when a salesman approached and asked Tobias if he was the owner of a vehicle in the lot with Vietnam service stickers. When Tobias said yes, the salesman said he was told by another man to deliver a message: “Buy anything you want in the store.”
The salesman pointed out the benefactor standing in the distance. Tobias approached and asked if the salesman was telling the truth. “He said, ‘absolutely.’”
“I asked him why, and he said he just wanted to thank me for my service,” Tobias said. “I said thank you, and he said you already thanked me by serving your country.”
Tobias said he couldn’t accept the gift, but the man insisted.
“He told me, ‘If you don’t, it it will hurt my feelings,” Tobias said. “I started crying and gave him a big hug.”
The man, who appeared to be in his 40s, refused to identify himself beyond the first name. “He said he had lost an uncle in the Korean War,” Tobias said.
Several days later,Tobias remains stunned by the episode. In fact, the computer was still sitting in an unopened box on Friday.
“I was a nervous wreck the rest of that (first) night,” he said.
Tobias, a member of the Harbor High School class of 1966, enlisted in the Marine Corps immediately after graduation and served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam between 1967-1968. He fought in some of the war’s bloodiest battles, including Hue and Khe Sanh.
“I saw a lot of action,” Tobias said. “Thank God I made it back.”
Tobias was discharged with a sergeant’s rank and is retired from the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., after more than 33 years.
Tobias is proud of his service. He assists the county’s Veterans Service Administration, U.S. and military flags fly outside the house and his sedan is affixed with Marine Corp decals and Vietnam combat ribbons. The vehicle, in fact, probably brought Tobias to the attention of his OfficeMax benefactor.
“He had to have seen my car sitting in the parking lot,” he said.
Time spent with the Marines proved life-changing, Tobias said.
“It helped me 110 percent,” he said. “It was a real experience.”