Ok, so I know this deviates from the normal content of American Hand, but I felt this was as good an outlet as any to share this little story I wrote, here we go...
RETURN TO SENDER
I don’t consider myself someone with too many stories to tell. I would much rather sit down and listen to someone else’s stories over a pint or two and share a few belly laughs and return home only to try and fail to re-tell someone else’s stories. This time I have a story that only I can tell.
Anyone who has had family in the armed services knows the feeling of sending your loved ones off to distant lands not knowing if they will ever come home. Both my mother and father were in the army so this was something I knew all too well. My mother put her military career on hold to take care of me, meaning that things changed for them. Mom was not deployed somewhere else at the same time, instead she was working on base and taking care of me, waiting for her husband to come home. By the time I was old enough to understand what was really going on around me, I had experienced the mass gathering of families waiting patiently in the terminals to see their loved ones many times. Each time was the same feeling. When you finally see the person you sent off, your heart damn near jumps out of your chest every single time.
I was lucky enough to have my father return home to us every time. But the last time my father returned home would be the last time we would get to send him away. My father passed from a painful battle with cancer when I was ten years old.
Fast forward a bit, to age 25 or 26.. My now brother-in-law’s best friend Marc had joined the army, and I was damn proud of him. Not only was he joining but he was hell bent on joining the special forces, the Green Berets. If you know anything about the Green Berets, you know this was serious business. Not just anyone makes the cut, but Marc did. When I found out I was proud, but naturally worried -- worried that his family would have to go through the same highs and lows, the waiting, the not knowing. The stakes seemed higher this time being that Marc was a Green Beret and their missions generally much more potentially volatile. Marc came home from his first tour and seeing him was like seeing my dad, even though Marc and I were only previously friends through my brother-in- law.here was an unspoken bond.
My brother-in-law was having a party one night. Marc and I were shooting the shit, probably having more beers than we should have. At one point I just lost it knowing he was going off for his second tour. That night I gave him something that my dad had left me when he passed away, a small silver cross that I had always told myself was a good luck charm serving to keep its owner safe. I thought of it as my father watching over me, or whoever possessed the cross.. I gave it to Marc and told him, “You WILL bring this back to me!” He refused knowing the origin of the cross but after much arguing he took it and told me, “I’ll give it back to you when the time is right.”
Time passed and Marc finished his tour. He had taken up a job as a police officer in the very same town we grew up in. My wife and I were in town for our wedding and my mind was in a million places, so when it happened I was caught totally off guard. My brother-in-law left our head table and came back with Marc and a few of his other buddies. Marc walked up to me behind the table,reached into his pocket, pulled out the cross, and handed it to me. “I told you I would give this back to you when the time was right.”I was elated and had to fight back the tears as I gave him a big old hug. We drank to that and I sent Marc on his way. I slid the cross into my pocket and went about getting married as you do at your own wedding. It was one hell of a night and one I’ll never forget. In case I do, this story will be here to remind me.
By: Jon Walley