Firing from the Lip

A collection of thoughts, stories, tall tales, half truths and opinions from the Heartland of America.

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Location: Missouri, United States

An irreverent but loving grandfather of five and father of three, I enjoy writing of family, love, life, and the never ending fascination of it all.

Monday, August 28, 2006

'We'll Take You Home'

This is one of my favorite memories of my Dad. It illustrates the kind of man he is, and reminds me of how very lucky I am to call him Dad. I love you Pop.

‘We’ll Take You Home’
In the early afternoon of a hot, muggy summer day, my dad and I were driving down Main Street on the way to Flat River to pick up our order at Lead Belt Auto Supply.
Pop had been working on putting a new motor in a lady’s car. He’d run into a lot of problems with this one, and for one of the few times I can remember my dad was in a foul mood. He didn’t have much to say, and was in a hurry to get our stuff and get back home.
I was around ten or so, call it 1971. The war in Vietnam was raging but I didn’t know much about it. I watched the news with Mom and Dad, and I felt sorry for the poor soldiers who were getting hurt.
As we drove, I looked up and there, walking along the shoulder of the road, was a soldier. He looked tired, wrestling with that big old duffle bag. Pop pulled over and waited for the soldier to reach our truck. He sure was hot! His face was streaked with sweat, and he looked plumb worn out.
I remember thinking how young he looked. I figured he was 18 or 19. That surprised me! I thought soldiers were older than that? ‘Where you headed, son?’ Asked my father. ‘Potosi, sir. I’m headed home.’ the soldier replied wearily. ‘Hop in. We’ll take you home.’ Well, that soldiers face lit up like a firefly! He smiled the brightest, happiest smile I’d ever seen. He thanked Pop, tossed his bags in the bed of the truck, and climbed up into the cab.
I scooted over next to dad and listened as they talked. I was surprised to learn this baby faced soldier sitting next to me had been in Vietnam. He was too young! He was far too young! He was just a kid himself! They spoke softly and every so often the soldier would look out the window at the pastures and hills rolling by like he couldn’t believe he was there.
They talked a little about the war, the soldier said it had been rough, and several friends of his had died. He told Pop they’d got some pretty mean treatment from some folks on the way home. I sure didn’t understand that? Why would you be mean and hurtful to someone willing to fight for you? That didn’t make any sense to me at all. Looking at my dad, I saw he didn’t get it either, but he sure didn’t like it.
We were getting close to Potosi, and that soldier was sure getting excited. Dad asked, ‘where in Potosi, son?’ ‘You’ve brought me a good way, sir. You can drop me off at the city limit, I’ll find my way from there.’ ‘No sir,’ my dad replied, ‘you tell me where, and me and the boy, we’ll take you to your door.’
He thanked Pop again, and we found his street. We were just a few blocks from his parents home when I heard a funny sound from the soldier. As I looked at him I saw his chin quiver, and he bit down hard on his lip. I don’t know why, but it made me cry, and I scooted over and hugged him and told him I was glad that he was home. As he put his arm around me and hugged me back I felt his tears fall on my face.
I’ll never forget pulling up to his parents home. He shook Pop’s hand and tousled my hair. ‘I don’t have the words, sir’ he said, gripping my fathers hand. Dad smiled and replied, ‘welcome home son, and thank you.’
As he turned away we heard a yell, from someone looking out the window. We waited, the door burst open and a boy ran onto the porch. He was jumping up and down, yelling, ‘Momma! Momma!’ We saw the soldiers mother and dad, as they ran down the walk to their son. I cried happy tears as he lifted his mother in his arms and swung her round and round, held tightly to his chest. We saw him bear hug his dad, and kneel down to lift the leaping little boy high over his head.
As my father pulled slowly away, the soldier waved goodbye. Driving down the highway, headed home, I looked over at my father. His dark mood had lifted, and there was a slight smile on his face.
‘That sure was good of you, Pop!’ ‘Taking that soldier home like that!’ Laughing, I said, ‘Hey Pop. You went fifty miles out of your way to get him home!’ My dad looked at me, and after a moment replied, ‘yeah son, I guess we did. But he went 16,000 miles out of his way, for us.’ ‘Promise me son. You’ll never forget it.’ ‘I swear Pop. I’ll remember.’
To all the veterans of Vietnam who came home only to be called foul names, spat upon, and ignored. There were many like my Dad and I, who honored your service, and were glad you made it back. Thank you.
Welcome Home

2 Comments:

Blogger diana hartman said...

so, you're gonna leave little packets of tissue lying around for your guests, yes?
sniffle...

well done, you; well done :)

10:02 AM  
Blogger tin said...

I can read this one a thousand times and I still get "sweaty eyes" from it.

7:40 AM  

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