From Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

A Soldier Remembers

In 1987, while serving as the public affairs officer at Fort Bragg, I would frequently visit the local high schools to speak to the students about the Army. As a lieutenant colonel, I found it particularly rewarding to talk with the teenagers about the benefits of military service, if only for a few years of their lives.

During one of these visits, I reported to the secretary in the principal’s office to let her know that I was here for the third-period civics class. I was a little surprised when she told me, “The principal would like to see you before you go to the class.” Normally, in these small county schools, the principal was busy with a myriad of duties such as driver’s education, administration, counseling and the like.

As I entered his office, I was greeted by a gentleman who appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties, and he welcomed me with a smile and a handshake. “You don’t remember me, do you?” he queried.

I looked closely at the face again and could not recall where we may have met before. “No,” I said. “I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“You were my company commander in basic training at Fort Jackson in 1970,” the principal said.

I again looked at the middle-aged face and had no recollection. We usually had 220 soldiers in each unit, and they all looked alike in uniform with short haircuts—and it had been seventeen years ago.

“Let me help you out,” he suggested. “You gave me a three-day pass to go home and see my newborn baby.” I immediately remembered the incident, if not the soldier!

“Yes,” I said. “I remember now.” It was the only three-day pass I had issued because the soldiers were on their way to Vietnam immediately after they finished training. But I knew if I did not let him go home to see his son and something happened to him, I would regret denying the opportunity he had to be with his family.

He stood up from his chair, walked around the desk and put his hand on my shoulder as we went down the hall to the classroom. “Come on, Colonel. I’d like to introduce you to ‘the baby.’ He’s in your third-period class. By letting me go see him, you gave me a reason to stay focused and to come home safe from that war. Thank you, sir.”

It was the most rewarding class I had ever given, and I had no problem telling the students about the bonds of friendship and the values that Army life can provide . . . and that can last a lifetime.

David R. Kiernan

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