It was a chance encounter that turned into a memorable moment. This is what happened….

I was in New York City, meeting with our client and friend Worth Linen, CEO of Worth Linen Associates. Worth runs an agency that supports the USO and other nonprofits. Worth and I spent several hours talking about raising funds for veterans organizations and current military personnel.

At the end of the day, we stopped into one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. The maître d’ came over to our table, pointed to an older gentleman and suggested that we might want to talk with him.

The man was 94-year-old John Seelie. John is a veteran and the last survivor of the 25th Infantry Division that was stationed in Pearl Harbor at the start of World War II. John then went on to fight on Guadalcanal. He was in New York because he wanted to pay his respects to those who died on 9/11.

After talking to John for a few minutes, Worth was touched by the veteran’s story. Worth said, “I’ll be right back,” and dashed out of the restaurant into the rain. Fifteen minutes later, Worth burst into the restaurant again, with beads of sweat on his brow. Worth walked briskly back to John, then graciously gave him several gifts from the USO.

John was touched that 70+ years after he fought for our country, his efforts are still so appreciated. Worth was honored to be able to show his respect to John. And I — with a father, brother, and son-in-law who all have proudly served — was moved to see how much joy both John and Worth were experiencing in the moment of mutual appreciation. It was a special moment.

On this Memorial Day, I hope this story can be a reminder that we should never forget how important it is to say “thank you” to those who have kept America safe.

Don McKenzie is President & CGO of Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Contact us at, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.