I am one of these very fortunate people who have faced little adversity, much because of the gifts of circumstance and the kindness of friends.
In high school, I was the smart-mouthed wise-ass kid that caused bigger boys to feel the need to pound on me. My best bud was one of those bigger boys and no matter what, he had my back. I survived public education relatively unbruised due to my buddy and his willingness to stand with me.
I was invited to attend a war. Like most of the million of us who participated in that quagmire in southeast Asia, I was totally ignorant of the issues and completely unprepared for the reality on the ground. While part of MAC-V (the logistics end of that war), my buddies from Ann Arbor, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn kept me sane, occasionally sober, and mostly out of harm’s way. Dave, Mike, and Tommy were good fellows who shared money during the three months the Army couldn’t find me, care packages from The World, and unsou when they had some and I didn’t.
In the 1st Infantry Division, my first and closest friend was a career soldier who kept me alive, out of trouble (mostly with a nasty Sergeant-Major and a mentally unstable commanding officer), and taught me a lot about a world larger than my little corner of Virginia. Stan was from Memphis, not well educated, and one of the wisest people I’ve known. He had my back.
Since leaving the Army nearly fifty years ago, there have been others that have kept me sane, paid my mortgage, bailed me out, bought me a beer, fixed my car, shared their dope, and have, in the truest sense, had my back.
I lost touch with those guys from Ann Arbor, Brooklyn, Cu Chi, Di-An, Long Binh, Memphis, and Philadelphia. I hope they all came back to The World whole and healthy and remain so.
The others, new friends and old, who have stood with me, I won’t let go so easily. We all need someone to have our backs.