The two men sat facing each other. The table is on the far end of the carport. You can hear the traffic in the highway a quarter mile away.
There’s two glasses. Two beers and a couple of cigarettes. The wind is out of the south. A cool day in Mississippi.
One man had tears in his eyes. Every word he said choked him.
The other man is dying. Cancer.
“I love you.” said one.
“I love you, too.” said the other.
Both are hard men. Hard lives. Hard work. Hard times. Bad luck. Good luck. Lucky to make it this far.
“I hope it’s easy for you.” No denying the facts. The man on the left said, wiping another tear from his eye. “I’m going to miss you.”
“Me too. I’ll be alright.” Acceptance.
“Tell me what I can do to help you.”
“Man, I don’t need nothing. I’m OK. Thanks for coming up here to see me.” the sick man said. “That’s good.”
On his frail arm, in red, blue and green, an Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Forever. He’ll take that with him when the time comes.
Inside his house, he shows me his room. A man cave. He leans heavy on a cane. He talks in a whisper until he can’t talk anymore. The cancer has just about run its course. He’s about out of time. He has to sit down.
A hundred medicine bottles are on a table. A wall in Red and Green. Semper Fidelis. USMC. A starched cap, with a black Marine E-G-A on the front. It’s 50 years old. It was his to wear back then and his still.
Another, larger than ever Eagle, Globe and Anchor hangs on the wall. It’s hand-made. One of a kind.
There’s a group photo from Paris Island, 1969. Three tough as nails Drill Instructors, ramrod straight, with a purpose. Behind them, fifty proud Marines standing at attention. Their boot camp photo, just before taking a senior trip to Viet Nam.
Some more photos hang on the wall. They are all young kids, dressed up like Marines. The jungle behind them, that far away look in their eyes. A web belt, with a Kabar fighting knife and scabbard. His. An overseas cap, hanging on another mail. Again, his.
He showed me a citation. Signed by a General. Again, dated 1969. He was brave, courageous, strong. He saved his brothers’ lives one day. They were all in harm’s way.
His wife shows me the Bronze Star. “The Marines didn’t just hand these out like they were candy.” she said. “They awarded them to heroes. That’s how he got his.” She pointed back to the framed citation.
Her personal hero.
I shook his hand, not just once, but several times. I looked him in the eye and thanked him for his service. I’m glad to have the opportunity to tell him that a lot of us care about what he did.
Our country’s hero.
Before we got in the truck to leave, the two men hugged each other for five minutes. The tears came back. They pulled each other tight, holding on. Forever.
When we left, my brother said, “He’s a ‘one of a kind’ type man. Always lived his life to have fun. I’m going to miss him more than just a lot.” There were more tears.
Parker, Thank you for your service. You are a hero.
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