“Once a Marine. Always a Marine” said this 80 year old Vietnam vet as we said our goodbyes.
Bill lives in an assisted living home near the park by my house. I was walking my dog Cali, while he was watching her “hint” for squirrels in the park. He said, “Hint” because she was just hinting at hunting them, and had no desire to actually catch one. He was right about that.
He knew a thing or two about dogs, especially German Shepherds. He had a few in his life. And because Cali is half shepherd, he was happy to share most of his knowledge about them with us. I listened. But Cali, well, she just kept hinting at the squirrels.
Doc still rides his Harley (although he had to downgrade to a lighter Sportster model), which seems at odds with the fact that he walks with a walker. He is a widow. His wife died when they were 76. And of all the “stuff” he’d seen over the years, watching his wife die was the worse.
After her funeral, which took place back in their hometown in New York, Doc grabbed two giant bottles of whiskey – “One for each saddle bag” – and he began to ride the roads he and his wife used to travel on. This was a two-year journey that took Doc across the country and back to LA. Doc fought for our freedom overseas. And when he needed it the most, he found his freedom here on the open road – mourning and celebrating life and love.
I liked meeting Doc. He was friendly, funny, and enjoyed life. I thanked him for his service and for taking the time to talk with me. He was more than happy to have someone to talk to. That's a lesson we all should remember as we go out to meet people. There are a lot of lonely people whom we just past by because we are walking our dogs, or hurrying off somewhere "hinting" for something better to do than to stop and talk to a stranger. But if they are anything like Bill, not only do they welcome the conversation, they also add to your life.
When I told him what I was doing, he told me he had heard of things like this where people challenged people to do stuff. I told he should do it. And what I suspect to be typical Bill style, he smiled and said, “I just did.” He shook my hand hard. “Once a Marine. Always a Marine”
Semper Fi, brother!