I walked up on an old man, close to his 70’s, sitting on a bucket outside of the company Drivers lounge one evening. He was looking down and muttering to himself.
I said, “Howdy, are you alright?”. He looked up and starred as he sized me up. I could see that this had been a big strapping man not so long ago.
On his hat was a medal that caught my eye. Not a hat pin but a small, high quality medal that was very old.
I was trying to make small talk but he just starred. I kept glancing at the medal and I finally said, “That’s a special medal, not many of them to be found. I can’t quite place it.” He relaxed a little and looked down.
“Marshall Islands.” He Froze, He looked up, He stood up. This man was 6 foot 4 inches lean and mean. He held out his hand and introduced himself as “The Colonel” while we shook hands.
I’m not military but I have been privileged to know intimately a few good men that cottoned up to me. My friend Gary, Green Beret 1967,68,69. I had to call him to “Attention Sergeant” when he would go back and get lost in time.
I woke up something in the Colonel as he grabbed another bucket and we both sat back down.
The Colonel started off slowly, he wanted to talk, to tell his story so he started at child hood, feeling me out as he spoke guardedly.
He relaxed a bit more as I showed interest and respect as he spoke.
I’ll only say this, the Colonel was indeed a Colonel, highly decorated, he knew too much to be released from the service. He had been on too many one way missions.
The Colonel didn’t tell me anything, he only spoke of his experiences once he came back to this moment in time.
Four or five hours later I saw the Colonel to his truck, he was exhausted.
The next day I went to the terminal manager, the owner’s son, as this was a 300 truck fleet. I inquired about the Colonel as the Colonel had slipped away in the night.
“That crazy old man calls himself a Colonel’ he chuckled.”
“That crazy old man as you call him served this country in ways you would never understand. If he needs anything, anything at all, you had better give it to him, I’ll cover it, Understand!!!”
About a month went by. I rolled into the terminal. Shortly thereafter the terminal manager approached me and told me that the Colonel had quit shortly after I had left. He had looked through the personnel files only to discover that the Colonel had served 45 years in the military, no details. His father wouldn’t talk about it only to say that he had hired the Colonel.
Seems the Colonel had walked in one day, handed the father the keys, and walked out.
I want to believe that the Colonel had found a little peace that night we spent together. I want to believe that he went home to his ranch. The ranch that he never paid taxes on because they had always, mysteriously, been paid for him. The ranch that he so proudly talked about, the family ranch that he had grown up on.
I pray that he went home and found peace, that he went home to die with fond, childhood memories, of romping in the fields.
What do you know about the guys and gals that you share the roads with? We sit by ourselves and eat if we are not eating alone in the truck. We are by ourselves when we don’t have to be. We are accustomed to being alone, we no longer are able to talk with our dispatchers and many of the clerks at the docks are cold and rude.
Sure, we have family and friends, some of us at least. I like to think that I have many friends, most of which I’ve only met once and will never meet again.
On a really bad day, I force a smile on my face and put a little pep in my step and without knowing it, My Brothers and Sisters of the road see me through.