Write Again … Indelible memories

Published 11:47 pm Friday, June 1, 2018

Often, when I write a column that is very personal, I question the wisdom of so doing. You know, too much about me.

Yet, at least in the past, I write such with the thought that we all have these private and personal memories. And while our memories are just that, ours, I am hopeful that at the very least my writings might cause many of you, kind readers, to also reflect upon your own memories.

And so, with that preface, let me share with you just a few, a very few, of those memories that never seem to leave me.

An outdoor water spigot. It was situated on the side of the wall in the angle of the L-shaped Green Court Apartment building in Washington Park.

And, it was to this water source, this oasis, that my buddies and I went to quench our thirsts after strenuous ball playing. It was the best water — or so it seemed — we ever drank.

Many of those childhood friends are now gone. The memories of those times remain. I can still taste the water.

In 1961, when our commanding officer, Capt. Robert J. Collins, M.D., addressed all of the 502nd Armored Medical Company in an assembled formation, it would be the last time he did so. He was being transferred back to the states.

He concluded his brief remarks with a poem, “The Irish Blessing,” appropriately so, as his family roots were Irish.

He recited, “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the palm of his hand.”

We were then called to attention. The First Sergeant saluted Capt. Collins, and he returned the salute. The he turned and walked away. We never saw him again. It was good theater. And surprisingly poignant.

April 12, 1945. I was playing in the yard of my grandparents’ house on their farm in Edgecombe County. It was located between Conetoe and Tarboro. More specifically, near Mildred. (What? You’ve never heard of Conetoe? Or Mildred?)

The house was very modest. The water source was on the side porch. A hand pump. And toilet facilities were located outside.

I looked up and saw her coming down the porch steps. I asked, “Grandmama, why are you crying?”

She said — her exact words — “Son, President Roosevelt died.”

And I remember.

Please allow me this one last memory, which comes from my sometimes seemingly inexhaustible cache of remembrances.

And then there was that glorious day in May — bright with sunshine — with a military band playing dockside, when we, some 1,000-plus strong, came single file down that gangway from the U.S.S. Patch.

With my duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I stepped onto the United States of America. Brooklyn Army Terminal, Fort Hamilton, New York.

My 29 months overseas was over. (And 31 months, overall, since I had been home.)

Since most of the discharge process had been completed prior to sailing, the final part was done quickly once we were ashore. And then we were active duty soldiers no more.

How to describe such almost ineffable emotions? Words just aren’t adequate.

But I am left with my memories.

As I am sure you have yours.