I recently had the pleasure of waiting on a retired military man who had business in my office. We had met before; it seems that after retiring he returned home to farm the family’s land in South Alabama. Still carrying a “military presents”, He always spoke to the point with few words, but always seemed to say allot. Although I do not remember which branch he served in, he often wore a shirt or cap reflecting such. This day, however, I couldn’t help but notice he was wearing a Troy University Cap along with an Alabama Crimson Tide polo shirts. Although his red’s matched perfectly, I commented on his mixed allegiance while making small talk. I immediately realized I’d tapped into something…, he was hesitant to go there, but eventually shared this with me & I found it very fitting for this Memorial Day and wanted to share:
The Troy University Cap was simply because he received his education through them. The things he’d learned from his time at Troy would always be with him and he was thankful for that education. He paused and placed his right hand over the white A that stood out from his crimson polo, like he was fixing to say the pledge of allegiance! As he placed his right hand on the left side of his chest he simply said “my allegiance here (referring to Alabama) goes much deeper”. He started to change the subject….., at which this point he could probably see that he was leaving me with the…,” Oh, just another obnoxious Alabama Fan look on my face.” (Being an Auburn Fan, I suppose it was hard to hide) So he backed up & continued he story.
“I’ll never forget that day September 9th, 1971” he went on to explain that he had been engaged in the most fierce battle for about 9 days, the worst he’d seen in his fighting in Vietnam. When the battle was finally over and they were able to make it back to camp, Alabama Football was playing over the PA system. The feeling of HOME and comfort that came over him at that moment was just what he needed, and It seemed very clear to me that it was now embedded into his soul.
He still remembers the team they played and the score of the game (Yes Alabama won). He went on to explain that he was not an obnoxious, dye hard type of fan but rather a loyal supporter because he will never forget the feeling of comfort from home that game gave him, when he needed it the most.
He has reminded me that our Veteran’s come in all shapes & sizes. Many live among us disguised as great neighbors, farmers, business men, etc. they are not all lying silently 6 feet under with an American Flag flying by their tombstone. They are living among us as the lucky ones! Not all gave all, but all who gave had their lives forever changed in ways we who haven’t served will NEVER be able to comprehend. Our allegiance to those who have sacrificed so much, so that we can live in the “home of the free”, should run as deep as his allegiance to his home…., his Alabama.
Patricia Foley Gibson
May 30, 2011