After working so hard in the military, Patrick Gibson was finally able to spend time with his family and focus on their future. And with two new kids and his wife, Whitney, he knew things would be tight financially. So wherever he could, Patrick cut costs. But in a crowded North Carolina supermarket, Patrick saw something that would change his life forever. It angered him deeply, and he shared his encounter on Facebook. He never expected it to become a viral controversy.
Patrick Gibson was once a young man without many viable career options, but he found a purpose with the U.S. Army.
Thanks to his hard work and vision, Gibson's open-ended future finally found a path forward. The veteran developed a strong sense of right and wrong — which spurred him to action that day at the grocery store.
Money was often on his mind. After finishing his service, Gibson looked for a job that would make him enough money to support himself and his family.
He ended up joining the working class like millions of other Americans. Life wasn't lavish, but he was doing just fine and knew the value of his work.
Gibson was sure he wanted to forge a new path, starting with a family. He knew that his girlfriend, Whitney, was the one for him and asked her to marry him even though they were young.
With enough hard work, they'd make a beautiful life together.
That beautiful life arrived fast and happened in the form of two kids, a boy, and a girl. Gibson suddenly had to make enough money for himself and two other people — three if you count Whitney.
Still, he was determined to make it work. After all, he was a veteran! He was no stranger to hard work.
As the sole breadwinner in the family, Gibson was under a lot of pressure to make ends meet and provide basic needs for his children and wife. This often meant skipping breakfast, one of the many sacrifices that allowed him to stay afloat.
But it was sacrifices like this that left Gibson exhausted.
Gibson worked so hard that he never had to ask for help, not from his parents or the government. But the same can't be said for everyone else.
Of course, there's no shame in asking for help; sometimes, that's the best option. But, on the other hand, Gibson had a lot of pride — perhaps too much. And this was okay... until a certain supermarket visit.
At a Fayetteville supermarket, Gibson went through each aisle and grabbed everything he needed. Like any person, there's always stuff he saw that he couldn't afford.
After all, the point was to get the basics, not dabble in every luxury that tempted his eye. He was doing his best to stay afloat, so he had to shop strategically.
As Gibson shopped, he looked for special deals wherever he could find them. This was the difference between a casual and a savvy shopper.
There are plenty of savings if you know where to look! But he noticed other shoppers didn't care as much about saving money as he did.
Gibson's observation was confirmed when he finished shopping. Something unusual caught his eye when he got in line to pay for his groceries.
It's not that he had any trouble with his order, but he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at a stranger in line with him. But, unfortunately, the details didn't seem to add up.
He couldn't get it out of his system. The veteran was concerned about the overflowing cart in front of him, containing all kinds of grocery goodies.
That on its own wasn't too unusual, though the over-stuffed cart did look a little out of place. But, no, it wasn't until Gibson noticed the customer's behavior in front of him that his interest was piqued.
It's not just that the shopping cart was packed to the brim but also that it mainly contained luxury goods. Bacon, steak, and shrimp were just of the few non-essentials he spotted.
Of course, these were items he could never afford to buy regularly while supporting his family, but it's not jealousy that Gibson was experiencing.
Once the cashier rang up this mystery shopper's order, the grand total came to around eight hundred dollars! Gibson was a little surprised given the sheer amount of food they had piled up, but what happened next threw him — and the cashier, no doubt!
— into a frenzy. The customer reached into their pocket.
The customer took out their wallet, shuffled through several wads of cold hard cash, and decided instead to finally take out their EBT card, designed to help those in need afford essential goods.
Gibson, who would be paying in cash, felt this family was getting a boatload of gourmet food for free.
Gibson was a little frustrated, but he got more intel before saying something. He followed the shopper to the parking lot, finding that the man also had a brand-new car!
It was just another way in which the mystery shopper's status as a low-income individual didn't seem to add up with his spending habits.
How was it that Gibson spent his days and nights working to support his family, and this person was taking advantage of government help while also having wads and wads of cash to spend? Patrick knew better than anyone the value of a just, honorable society.
This mystery shopper's behavior wasn't right, and Gibson couldn't rest until he said something about it.
Gibson realized it would be risky as this wasn't an average day at the store. The store was packed with families, and the lines were very long.
It's not that Gibson wanted to make matters any worse, but he couldn't hold back any longer. The mystery customer couldn't get away with it.
As angry as he was, Patrick was too much of a gentleman to approach this shopper in person. Instead, he gathered his feelings, snapped a few photos, and returned home.
That's when he logged into Facebook to speak his mind about what he'd witnessed. He knew he couldn't have been the only person to have a problem with the mystery customer's behavior.
Gibson hit "Share," but he wasn't expecting thousands upon thousands of others to do the same after reading his post. In some time, over 150,000 others had reposted his original message, which brought calm to Gibson's tired heart.
Then again, a few messages made him even angrier.
Gibson received a lot of support. That said, not everyone who engaged with the post fully agreed with him.
Some thought he might have been overreacting and jumping to conclusions out of anger. They claimed that he had no idea where that money came from and that the car could have been a gift! Plus, was it his place to judge a stranger?
Patrick was diplomatic about how he responded to his supporters and his critics. He clarified that there are many people in need of the system's help but that he felt those scamming it were simply un-American.
That day made the soldier's blood boil. But people commenting on his post pointed out something Gibson hadn't considered.
The mystery shopper's story may not be as black-and-white as Gibson assumed it to be.
One person reminded Gibson that "No one needs to thank you or anyone else for working for their grocery bill when the fact is that a majority of families participating in the program are working families struggling to make ends meet, just as you are."
We can understand Gibson's frustration as a hard-working veteran, but we can also see the other person's point. The only fact is that not everyone is trying to scam the system.
The world is also full of good samaritans, though they often don't show themselves until they're under pressure. Gibson would undoubtedly empathize with a fellow military man who struggled with pride.
A National Guardsman named Luis Ocampo knew just as well as Gibson how being in the military, while honorable, doesn't exactly make one a millionaire. So when he was greeted by a scary sight after returning home from a dangerous trip with the National Guard, he was at a loss for words.
He'd spent the previous week facing unimaginable devastation in the wake of a deadly hurricane, only to be greeted by a nightmare.
Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 storm, smacked the coast with heavy winds and torrential rain, flooding cities and destroying homes. The Guard deployed Luis to the riverfront city of New Bern, which the storm hit particularly hard.
Duty called, and Luis answered the call by putting himself in the path of the hurricane. People needed help, and he was determined to be there for them.
While Luis and his local soldiers navigated the storm's aftermath, helping anyone who needed water, food, or what have you, his wife and child had to keep themselves safe.
20-year-old Kailey and baby Lucian headed for a place they would feel safer without Luis around.
Specifically, she took her son to Luis's parents' house so she wouldn't be alone for days. She left the family dog at home, where she checked in on him periodically.
For a few days, the family lived like this — from from home, and far from each other.
Thankfully, on September 21st Luis was able to return home from his brief stint in New Bern. After helping people piece their lives back together, he expected at least a few hours for himself.
But once at home, he did not receive a hero's welcome.
With Kailey still at his parents' house, Luis arrived at home only to be greeted by a curious sight: the dog — who'd been home all by himself — was running around in the front yard. When no one was home, the dog was kept inside for his own safety.
The only way the dog could've ended up outside was if the door had been left open.
Sure enough, Luis quickly noticed how the back door had been left wide open. Either the dog taught himself a new trick and opened the door himself, or Kailey had forgotten to close the door behind her after checking on the dog.
Both possibilities, Luis knew, were unlikely. With a sinking heart, Luis realized that a stranger must have opened the door. Gulp.
Then, Luis noticed the worst detail yet: the window to his son's bedroom was propped open. Someone busted the lock with a nearby shovel.
All at once, it was clear what had happened: the home had been broken into by a stranger, who had crawled into the home through the son's window! They weren't still inside, were they?
Luis entered his house through the wide-open back door and looked around. Luis may have been used to stressful situations as a member of the National Guard, but that didn't mean he wanted to confront a dangerous stranger in his house!
Thankfully, a full search revealed a now-empty house. But that was just about the only positive the soldier could take away from what he saw.
The intruder had caused some serious damage. They'd flung clothes everywhere, and stole a laptop Luis kept all of his school work on.
They also stole a video game system, a firearm, and even swiped food from the refrigerator! And they didn't stop there.
The thieves took a box of coins Luis's grandmother collected from around the world — something immensely sentimental to the 24-year-old. Life was hard enough for the young National Guardsman and his family; now they practically had to start all over again.
After surveying the damage, all Luis could do was stick his face in his hands.
This was how Kailey found her soldier when she returned home. Wanting to do something to help, she turned to Facebook and wrote a status that she didn't know would eventually change their lives.
She knew Luis wouldn't be happy about her post — he had a lot of pride — but she was determined to share their situation with their community.
"This soldier, my soldier," Kailey wrote, "lost everything of importance...We are trying to get the word out and see if anyone has any information about who may have taken it.
Please share and see what we can find out!" Their story would tug on anyone's heartstrings, and Kailey hoped that someone would be moved to help them.
A friend of Kailey's, Mary Elise Capron, saw the post and felt an overwhelming sense of grief for the couple she loved dearly. She'd worked closely with Luis over the years and knew him as "an amazing soldier and person."
She knew that the couple just didn't deserve this kind of loss.
Mary wanted to help, so she set up a GoFundMe. "I am honored to know [Luis]," she wrote, "and cannot believe something so terrible could happen to someone so dedicated to the service, his family, and school."
It's true that Luis was not only a dedicated serviceman, but a loving father and hard-working student. Without his stolen property, everything from his career to his schooling to his family's safety was in jeopardy.
Which is why Mary was so determined to help Luis and Kailey. She set a fundraising goal of $5,000.
That, she figured, would be plenty to replace the laptop and firearm, and to repair the broken bedroom window. Eventually, donations flooded in... and they wouldn't stop!
In 11 days, the GoFundMe raised thousands for the couple, who eventually asked Mary to shut down the fundraiser! They were making too much money, they argued, and didn't "want to abuse people's generosity."
The community had surpassed Kailey's expectations with the first Facebook post by a mile!
But the public actually asked Mary to re-open the fundraiser after she shut it down at the couple's behest: they wanted to help out this woebegone soldier! This made Luis uncomfortable, so he and Mary worked out another plan.
Luis and Kailey only took what they needed; the rest of the money, they decided, would go to an equally-worthy place.
Delighted with the public's enthusiasm to help a soldier in need, Luis, Kailey, and Mary redirected new donations to Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund, which helps local Guardsmen facing hardships.
Unfortunately, everyone experiences hard times, even the people who dedicate their lives to helping others.
The couple even gave some of the donation money — which totaled nearly $15,000! — to a soldier who'd been living in a hotel after Hurricane Florence brought a tree down on his home.
Luis and Kailey turned a disaster into a positive moment, and most importantly, they paid their good fortune forward.
"A big part of wanting to give the donations comes from seeing how generous people have been," Luis said. "And I wanted to pay that back to someone else who needed help."
Even in the worst of times, some people will always want to lend a helping hand. Luis and Kailey no doubt inspired other people to do the same.