The gray-haired man of ninety-seven didn’t stand so tall. But the soul inside this
country’s son was the greatest of them all.
He stood for right, no matter who or what got in his way. He loved his country
and his God up to his dying day.
When duty called, at just eighteen, the Navy welcomed him. His time aboard a
merchant ship was often pretty grim.
My father never talked of war; he kept it all inside. But the way he treated
veterans showed that he had served with pride.
One day, when I was young, and we were hauling loads of hay, we saw a Navy
boy in blue hitchhiking on our way.
My father sat behind the wheel. Said, “Let’s pick up that young man. He’s prob’ly
headed home. I’d like to help him if we can.
“Our load is strapped down tight. It ain’t about to shift around. A few more miles
won’t kill us and we’ll help him get homebound.
“We don’t give every hitchhiker a ride in this old truck. But if he’s wearing
uniform, we’ll always be his luck.”
The young man hopped up in the truck and thanked us for the ride. He said, “I’m
headed home to make my sweetheart my new bride.”
My dad insisted that we stop and get a bite to eat. The sailor didn’t argue when
my father said, “My treat.”
We ordered out at Thriftway Drug. Ate our burgers on the hay. And then Dad
drove the sailor home, some fifty miles away.
My father was a sailor on the USS Tangier. When getting leave they’d always
hitchhike whether far or near.
But to help a lone hitchhiker, for some drivers, was too bold. Too often men in
uniform were stuck out on the road.
So my father made a promise, if he lived through World War II, he’d never pass a
hitchhiker who wore the Navy blue.
When my son signed to the Navy with four years of service due, my dad was
proud his grandson chose to serve the Navy too.
Whenever Stars and Stripes marched by, Dad stood and gave respect. I’m proud
to be this veteran’s son. It ain’t no brag, just fact.
(Bryce Angell’s father was an outfitter and guide for 35 years, and Bryce was there to shoe and care for the horses and help him do the cooking. Bryce is from Idaho and still rides into the Tetons, Yellowstone and surrounding areas. His poems are mostly of personal experience. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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