As a boy, I would search through his dresser;
hoping to find some surprise tucked away
that he was holding onto for a special reason,
or just because I wanted to be like him–
and know what it was to be a man.
On a particular day,
I came across a wooden box.
I had probably never paid any attention to before
because it wasn’t a Hot Wheel or
anything to do with Spider-Man;
just a plain wooden box;
buried under his undershirts and socks.
So because I was a professional snooper,
I carefully removed the undershirts and socks.
pulled out the box and decided to look inside…
At first, it was nothing but a bunch of tissue paper
all folded up like it was meant for writing,
but–there was a glint of gold underneath…
That was enough to get me going…
“After all it could be treasure!”
my 7-year old brain reasoned,
‘We could be rich and not know it!”
Eagerly (and very carefully), I removed the tissue..
and saw, to my amazement and real sense of shock…
Army Man Medals.
The kind like you see on G.I. Joe or something–
These were real though!
And Oh, were they ever something to see–
There was one with a big tank on it,
There were two that said something about “Conduct”,
(I hoped that his conduct had been better than mine was at school),
one with some stars that said “Eu-ruo-pee-ann campayne”..
and ..a really strange one, shaped like a Heart,
and all in Purple..with George Washington on it…
I couldn’t understand it…or them
Why were they there?
Was Daddy actually G.I. Joe? His name WAS Joe you see…
“Daddy?”, I thought, ” An Army Man?”…
..and what was more I thought–a hero?
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THOSE!!”, a voice boomed…
and I knew I was in for it–this was bad.
“Where did you FIND these and WHY were you in my DRAWER?”
I began to feel very ashamed and started to cry;
He stopped. He took me on his lap with the box
and he said in a soft voice, very unlike G.I. Joe,
“You see these boy?, These are just decorations.
A lot more guys
gave a lot more than I did
and they didn’t get these–they had to stay there…
because they died…a lot of them were my friends.”
I was sad –because I saw he was also sad; Very sad and looking far away.
:He said, “Son–like we used to say in the Army..
walking around makes you a hero…
These things mean you got lucky.”
It wasn’t until much later in my life I heard that line
in an old movie…and remembered what my Dad said–
and it stuck.
He didn’t “win” anything…he did what he had to do–
He and the friends he left behind took a stand.
And he was lucky.
And so was I.