By Rev. Dr. Brian Gigee
“Thank You For Your Service”
Chuck Hoover was the paper boy in my neighborhood growing up. I doubt anyone in Pearland has a clue who he is. My mother looked forward to him coming to the house on ‘collection day.’ Forty cents a week. Five cents each day. The Sunday rate was a dime. He had a great smile and worked hard at his delivering craft of the old Youngstown Vindicator. He’s still alive I hear. He spent a hitch in Viet Nam. He lived through it. Thank you for your service.
Ted Downy lived up the hill from my house. He had bright blue eyes, wavy hair and was a favorite of the girls… especially at the local pool. We would ride our bikes there to spend hours in the sun swimming while Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons sang “When I Grow Up to Be a Man” over the PA system.
Ted also had a penchant for justice. It seems he found out the manager of the concession stand was skimming the profits. And being Summer help, working part-time he knew to complain would mean to lose his job. Instead, he was crafty. He knew my favorite treat was a frozen Nestle’s Crunch bar. Ten cent heaven! I remember this because on one of those crafty days, I handed him a quarter asking for a Crunch bar. He went to the cash register, rang me up, dropped the quarter in the till, grabbed my change and the frozen delight giving me back 2 dimes and a nickel. He winked and smiled. I felt fortunate at the time and figured it all out a bit later in life… a small gift recalled in a story some fifty plus years after the fact!
Ted enlisted in the US Army and died in Viet Nam, not long after that summer. Thank you for your service, Ted.
As many have, I’ve been to Washington, D.C. to visit our nation’s great places there, including the Viet Nam Memorial. I found Ted Downey’s name on the wall. It hurt to see it, knowing his young vibrant life was snuffed out unnecessarily. War evokes opinions. Wounds get re-opened. Some are for it; and some are not. It’s a matter of faith for many. It’s a choice. Patrick Henry once wrote, “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” Still, some go to battle and don’t come home alive… all of us impacted by the silence we avoid and the guilt which still divides.
But, on the wall also was the name of Col. David R. Williams, a young US Air Force pilot I never met. I wore his POW/MIA bracelet in college and I still have it in a box of personal affects. He was shot down in April 1967 and his body never recovered. I wrote to his parents in those days. I think his mom wrote back once. As I stood at that spot I began to cry. I don’t do that often enough but when I do, everyone knows it. I was a bit older and felt the pain a little deeper, I think. Faith matters helping us keep our focus and pointing the compass of our actions in the proper direction. Thank you for your service, Colonel Williams. People talk about you, still!
Whether you are a hawk, or a dove remember the Bible builds us up but also convicts us… “There is a time for war and a time for peace… a time to hate and a time to love… a time to live and a time to die…” (portioned from the Book of Ecclesiastes). We all live amid these realities, stuck between extremes. It’s called life.
So, look around you this week. Find a veteran. I’m not one but will! They served and lived to tell about it. If they choose. Grab their hand… give them a Chuck Hoover smile and tell them, “thank you for your service.” Brian
Brian Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland and the lead pastor at New Life Lutheran Church at 3521 E. Orange St. in Olde Pearland. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Friend2theRabbi. Comments and questions can be sent to [email protected].