It was several weeks back when the VA Vet Center in St. Pete, FL had its annual Christmas Party. It is a good time for fellowship and free food, music, and just having a good time among people who understand. It is also a time to meet people of various ages who, like myself, are veterans. This time was no different from those in the past.
I have to admit that I don’t like being around a lot of people. I feel uncomfortable. I like being able to know I have a wall behind me, or, at least, someone who I trust being able to watch my 6 while I keep an eye on theirs. And, even though some would argue that they disagree with me (but I know me better than they do) I would rather slip off and just be me by myself sitting in the woods someplace.
This time, at this party, I had made the rounds and had unsuccessfully tried to avoid a few people who managed to get me into conversations when all I wanted to do was drink my soda pop and leave when I was introduced to a man who was, like me, a United States Marine. But, he was WW II. I am Vietnam.
Even so, we are brothers! We are family.
We sat and talked for at least a half an hour and then I had to go and besides they were removing the tables, had cut off the music, and had taken in most of the food.
We talked of things that you and I can never share because… well, because….
But, regardless that this man was old enough to be my father, we shared common ground, common memories (different and yet common) and different but common ghosts.
He respected me and I respected him. We sat and drank cold coffee and ate some cookies and just enjoyed each others company. He was a brother. He was family.
When I left, I left him eating a few more cookies and I secretly wished that I could have sat and talked a few more hours as I know that those like him are slipping away, just like the Korean Vets and my group. But we had shared the time together and came away both richer for it. I told him he was a hero to me and he told me that I was to him.
That all may seem strange to some, but not to him and me.
Perhaps I will get the chance to see him again, my older brother, my fellow United States Marine, my friend from another war who understands me as I understand him. I hope so.