there was a small boy. he was 4 years old.
one day he was called to come home by his dad.
well . . . he came home. but he turned around and went right back
down the block to rejoin his friends in play.
you just didn’t do that. and he knew it.
you didn’t disobey orders.
jim reed walked to the end of the street to retrieve his son.
he was not pleased.
the small boy looked up at the man who waited for him
at the edge of the yard.
“sir, i know you’re gonna spank me.
but would you not do it front of the guys?”
jim reed said he could honor that. and they walked back home
a mere 10 years later jim reed was gone from the small boy’s life.
and a mere 8 years after that . . .
the young boy . . . now almost a man . . . was drafted into the army.
he opened the letter in front of his mother. our mother.
who had just lost her husband such a short time before this letter.
it actually seemed like only yesterday to her.
the young man of 18 went to the city in new york where you do such
things. he didn’t want to be in the army.
he chose to be a marine.
what molds a man? i’ve oftened wondered.
some are just like their fathers. some . . . like my brother, lose their
fathers when they’re only just beginning to know what being a man is.
some have their fathers all of their lives . . . and are nothing like them.
i have sometimes just wondered.
my brother joined the marines in the height of the viet nam war.
any time to be in the armed forces is risky. but this was a terrible war.
a war that caused our own country to very nearly divide.
convoluted intricate political reasons. not a mad man like hitler.
such a long sad waste.
he left for marine boot camp.
the infamous parris island. the place that is hell.
then to his post in san diego. (they’re not called bases in the corps).
from here . . . his m.o.s. school and then deployment to nam.
i was too young. too self involved. i was a young bride. in love.
i know now what marine boot camp is. i have seen documentary films.
i have seen what they go through. it is not to be believed.
as a matter of fact . . . when he went through it . . . it was even worse or
rougher than it is today. when 4 young recruits drowned in a swamp
during training . . . some of the rigors changed just a bit. but only a bit.
they are still the toughest of all. and were even tougher then.
the last ordeal of training is so bad that it is called
54 hours of literal non-stop hell on earth.
when you pass that. you’re a marine.
there was so little money. my mother loved this son more than life
itself. and yet . . . what he was going through was on the other side
of the country. planes were expensive. the excuses go on and on.
i have since watched a film on the crucible and the “family day”
of the final ceremony that makes the young marine forever a marine.
i sobbed throughout the entire film.
my marine was alone on family day.
he accepted this honor alone.
he recieved the small brown eagle globe and anchor into his curved
palm by the commander.
it’s oddly private. and very low key. that’s the way it’s done.
you’re addressed as a ‘ marine ‘ for the first time.
the proudest moment in a marine’s life. you’ve earned it.
then parade rest.
then . . .
time. FINALLY! time to spend with your family.
only his family didn’t come.
i hate money. what a sorry excuse. i know this guilt.
my marine never has said a word about it.
if he was disappointed. we never knew.
he simply carried on. he was shipped to viet nam.
he was lucky. he was one of the ones who came home.
he married and they had a little son.
he completed college while he held down two jobs.
he waited “just a hair too late” to join the marine reserves. an age thing.
a real disappointment. so instead . . . he joined the air force reserves.
he retired a year ago, a chief in the air force reserves.
i was at the ‘chief ‘ ceremony that night years ago.
the one where he was inducted as chief.
i was a stand-in for those who should have been able to see it.
jim reed and rena reed would be proud of their son.
my marine lost his wife to cancer on september 18 of last year.
she fought a valiant fight. as hard a fight as any marine would.
he fought right there with his little civilian. the love of his life.
but in the end . . . they were forced to ‘advance to the rear.’
a marine never retreats.
they’d been married for 38 years.
he was retiring within the year and they had plans.
they loved to travel.
as i write this. he is walking. training for a wilderness marathon
for a charity that helps children with cancer. the highest point on
the trail is 2,380 feet. he is 63 years old.
he does not have an ounce of fat on him.
he has silver hair and a beautiful silver mustache.
and he is bronzed from walking out in the sun.
the marathon is through a mountainous wilderness area in
the ozarks. rugged. tough.
just like my marine.
he would hate me saying that. it would be an embarrassment.
he is a quiet man. he knows himself.
there is no ego there.
on the anniversary of his wife’s death . . . last month
on the acutal day . . .
he happened to see a homeless guy along the road.
it turned out that the homeless guy was a marine. an older one.
he had his green duffle bag with him . . . walking.
my marine drove him all the way to dallas where he wanted to go.
he called me from the road . . . saying he’d be back late. not to worry.
that’s how i knew about it. otherwise i’d never have known.
that’s the kind of thing my marine does.
they say once a marine always a marine.
i guess i don’t wonder so much anymore what makes a man a man.
in this case . . .
i’d say it’s a pretty good combination of jim reed and the corps.
” i have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other
company. we need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here
as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us.
i have no one on my left and only a few on my right. i will hold. ”
~~ marine 2nd lieutenant clifton b. cates 96th company,
19 july 1918. 10:45 am
from records of the us 2nd division (regular)
. . . . and if you haven’t met jim reed yet . . . go to categories
and click on ‘the good ones.’ jim reed.
he’s our dad.