Just Visiting... A Memorial Day Tribute
Bill has visited me every May for decades.
We joined the Marines in late 1950, both of us having just turned 18. Bill is not a big guy, but powerful and wiry, with aquiline features that give a man a head taller pause – Battle Bill, we called him. He always had a don’t-mess-with-me vibe even when he was smiling.
He carried me on his back on June 1, 1951, after we had been in country less than a month. A couple of punk privates, scared to death and enraged about everything. How he carried me so far I’ll never know but I will always appreciate. Battle Bill is my hero.
We both returned from Korea that year, he with three less toes and an infected leg from untreated shrapnel he never knew he had. Bill has been faithful keeping in touch, visiting at least once a year, in May, and dozens of Christmases and a few Thanksgivings, too. Sometimes he brings beer, sometimes whiskey, but always a prayer.
He taught his kids to bring flowers and flags, then a gaggle of grandchildren and a bunch of great-grandkids, too, real troopers, all. One great-grandson has that look in his eye, even at his tender age – he’s gonna be a Marine, a damn good one.
Bill has thrived in life, in love and respect, successes and failures large and small, laughter and grief and always in remembrance.
Bill will always see me as the friend he carried, me with a look of astonishment knowing the end was near. A man can be angry through tears, and Bill certainly was that day.
Battle Bill is my hero. He has said that I was the real hero, not him, that he simply survived. I never agreed. Bill has lived well, kept the faith, and has never forgotten. He has lived a life worthy of the sacrifices others have made.
Thank you, Bill, for turning on the church lights and lighting the candles every day.
Thank you for raising and shepherding a wonderful family.
Thank you for being here in May, every May, every Memorial Day.
Evil shall never have dominion over you or yours, my friend. God Bless.
Well done, good and faithful servant, and...
Semper fi, Marine.