ELLSWORTH, Maine — Small acts of kindness so often go unremarked upon. A stranger holds the door open when your hands are full. A cashier calls out that you’ve left a bag of groceries behind.
“Someone found your wallet, and wants to return it.”
That was the news that a 21-year-old Colorado soldier, Pfc. Chad Reid, received on Jan. 17, hours after he had lost said wallet on a street in Afghanistan. The young soldier had been frantically searching for the wallet, which contained all his identification and several credit cards.
Without it, he would’ve been stranded: It was lost while he was away on a training detail, far from his base, FOB Azizullah. Without his ID, he couldn’t have boarded the return flight, scheduled to leave the next day.
The news reached Reid by way of his mother in Denver, who heard it from his grandfather in Pennsylvania, who found out from a complete stranger, who made a cold call from an Afghan street.
“I was in my office,” recalled Bob Meeker, Reid’s grandfather, who lives in Landsdale, Pa. “My phone rang. I said, ‘Bob Meeker,’ and this voice asked if I knew Chad Reid. I told him I did, and he said, ‘My name is Bill Peasley, and I’m calling from Afghanistan.’
“My heart raced, because I didn’t know what might have happened,” Meeker said.
Peasley is a civilian aircraft mechanic working in Afghanistan. In an email, he said safety concerns prevent him from disclosing exactly where he worked or who he worked for. He’s been working in Afghanistan for three years, he said, on three-month rotations — 90 days overseas, followed by 90 days at home in Otis with his wife and three kids.
Peasley, a 2001 graduate of Ellsworth High School, said he has been working jobs like that for about 10 years, including stints in South Korea and Iraq.
He explained he had found Reid’s wallet on the street on his way to grab a bite to eat at a company chow hall before starting his overnight shift. Inside, he found a phone number for Meeker, whom Reid had listed as an emergency contact.
“The sun had started to set and it was getting dark out, so I almost didn’t see it,” Peasley wrote during an interview over email. “I couldn’t imagine losing something so valuable in a stressful place so far from home. And I knew I had to return it as soon as possible.”
A game of phone tag ensued. Peasley left Meeker his contact information. Meeker called Reid’s mother, and asked her to try to get ahold of her son so Peasley could arrange a meeting. No sooner were they off the phone, Meeker said, than Reid called his mother in a panic.
He told his mom he had backtracked for hours trying to find the wallet and the all-important identification cards, Meeker said. He was only four months into his first nine-month tour of duty.
“He just kept telling us how it had been impressed on him, ‘You always need identification,’” Meeker said. “To be in a place like Afghanistan, in a war situation, to lose your wallet, there’s no telling what could’ve been done with the information he had in there, but his biggest concern was how he was going to get on that airplane.”
Reid’s mother told him that the wallet had been found. She passed on Peasley’s information, and when Reid signed on to Facebook to find him, a message was waiting for him.
“After the phone conversation with Bob, I got on Facebook and attempted to find Chad,” Peasley wrote. “After about a half hour, I was able to find him and send him a message telling him that I found his wallet.”
The two arranged a meet location and rendezvoused that night. Peasley said Reid was ecstatic to have his possessions recovered by a friendly person. The two chatted about what brought them to Afghanistan, and how long it would be before they saw their families. Peasley hadn’t seen his family in Otis since mid-December. Reid had been in Afghanistan for four months.
Peasley said Reid talked about the worst-case scenarios if he had not found his wallet.
Both remarked on the international scale of what in most scenarios would have been a simple, courteous act. The wallet was only missing for about three hours, Peasley said, but small, charitable actions mean much more in Afghanistan.
“I believe even the smallest acts of kindness are very important, especially in a location like this where everyone is under an extreme amount of stress,” Peasley wrote. “Even everyday activities here are stressful, and I cannot imagine how much worse it must be to work off the base in a dangerous situations.”
Meeker was also struck. He contacted the Bangor Daily News, simply so someone else might know what Peasley did, so the good Samaritan wouldn’t go unnoticed.
“I think if this would have happened in Philadelphia, if somebody had called me like that, I’d just say, ‘Thanks very much’ and that’s it,” he said. “But to do this from Afghanistan, to go through the trouble, really struck us. This guy has a lot of character.”
Peasley had a simpler take on the whole situation, and conveyed a sense of karma in good deeds.
“Being happy and doing nice things tends to rub off on people,” he wrote.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.