“US 56 602 XXX.” The numbers I had forgotten, forever lost in the resevoirs of my mind until I ran across my DD214 form, my discharge papers from the United States Army. Seven months shorts of turning 21, I found myself at Sand Hill, a remote part of the world found at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. About two years later, my first cousin, “Ricky” found himself in San Diego, California. Ricky had joined the Navy to get away from a life of crime and drugs, knowing that he was on a fast track to an early grave and the Navy appeared a “safe” way out of going to Vietnam. Ricky was three years younger than I was and he had already been identified as public enemy number one in his hometown in Arkansas. He felt that wearing the white Navy uniform beat the hell out of wearing a county jail uniform .
I remember Drill Sergeant Dozier. A tall giant of a man that could really sing out cadence, the songs we had to sing during our indoctrination period of 8 weeks of basic training. I remember him wearing his “Smoky the Bear” drill sergeant hat (Campaign Hat) and how he would “hit” us in our face with the brim of his hat as he scared the living hell out of us. The military, it doesn’t matter what branch, takes way your name and give you a number as the many become one. “You like me trainee?” Dozier would yell out to a trainee, as the trainee trembled in his boots. Drill Sergeant Dozier continued the psychological attack to the mind. Being scared and stupid, the trainee would respond “yes.” thinking you had given him the correct answer and the nightmarish encounter would be over with. “I don’t want you to like me,” he would respond. “Liking leads to loving and loving leads to F******* and I do not want to get f*****.” (This is a family channel.) After surviving basic training you went next to “AIT” or advance infantry training. Ricky later would informed me that he never had AIT training and found himself in Vietnam with a “colt 45” at age twenty after completing his basic training in California. I found myself outside of Kaiserslaughter, Germany two years before Ricky’s tour of duty in Vietnam began.
It would be some fifteen years later during a walk together at a family celebration that Ricky gave me a brief look into his life’s journey. He explained he was “high” during his entire tour of duty in Vietnam. How he had a two thousand dollar a day drug habit and the only job that could meet his financial need was that of “pimping” and he had a stable of women working for him. Not one who believed in shacking too long, he was married more than times than he could remember and would often tell my mom that he “did not remember” marrying one older white woman who was apparently well off money wise. After his tour of duty he went from one state to another state always on the move and his mother ( my dear aunt) would count it a blessing just to “hear” from him on Mother’s Day or Christmas. Ricky would later informed me how he had “died” several times and once found himself in a” tub of ice”, after over dosing on drugs.” I know there’s a God up above,” he would testify as the God of heaven and earth had protected him from himself over the years. After being delivered from a life of drugs and pimping, the second most important thing for Ricky after his Lord and his God was his attendance at Narcotics Anonymous as he faithfully attended NA meeting regardless of what city he found himself in. Like many veteran of war, he only gave me a “little” information, knowing that I could not handle too much information at one time. As a Journeyman Iron Worker he would tell me how much “peace” he had being 30-50 stories up in the air, working his craft.
The upshot after 678 words. I have often found myself “thinking” about my life’s journey just like my cousin Ricky did. Ricky is now absent from the body, but present with the his Lord. And when you start “thinking” you start “thanking.” The song writer says,” through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come” and you apply those words to your life. We were all “blind and could not see” at one time or another (some still are) until we were saved from ourselves by what the song writer and the Word of God calls “Amazing Grace.” Every day truly is a day of Thanksgiving. But do not take my word for it. “Search the scriptures;” John 5:39a. Remember, Every day is Thanksgiving.