Do you ever get news about a friend you feel like it’s too late and you wished you reached out somewhere along life’s path to see where life took them and let them know how glad you were to have known them?
I had that happen to me a few years ago. I began to wonder about those people back then, the merry band of Marines working in that chow hall on Parris Island. Wyscaver, Leopard, Moncrief, Ortega, VanAalsburg, and Robinson. One fall day I had this gnawing feeling about Robinson and it just wouldn’t go away. I went with that extra sense and googled his name and an obituary came up . Even though I had not spoken to him since I left the USMC a lifetime ago, a part of me hurt. He was one of us, and no one wants to lose one of the club. He was the second of our group to die, Denita Lynne was the first, they were both tragic and too soon.
I was 21 years old when I joined the Marine Corps and my first Duty station after boot camp was Parris Island , South Carolina. I walked into the rifle range chow hall and the first person I met was Jon, he was from my home state of Illinois . He was this really tall skinny guy with jet black hair with a patch of grey in the front of it and he had an accent ( I swore for the first two weeks that he was from Kentucky). No Illinoisans that I knew spoke with an accent and certainly not a drawl. He was from Vienna, Illinois to be more accurate he was from Simpson population 50. In the short time that I knew him we shared a lifetime of experiences. I have so many memories in that short time of life. It’s funny at the time it seemed like a lifetime, probably because we were so young and naive. He let me hitch a ride home with him one Christmas, we packed up his little black pickup and headed North. An adventure for sure, we ran into an ice storm, stayed somewhere in Tennessee, Conway Twitty Inn or something. I remember it had this huge guitar for a sign and I couldn’t stop laughing. A snow storm further thwarted my efforts to get home, so I ended up staying at his boyhood home, I spent that night in the lower bunk bed with his nieces and nephews very curious about who this stranger was when I woke up in the morning. It was Christmas morning and they were exchanging gifts. I remember watching the joy in their faces and feeling a little bit like an intruder, when I was handed a box. I was not expecting a gift I was just passing through. She was very excited, and told me to open it. I did and inside was a yellow v-neck sweater with a collared shirt underneath. I was thrilled that this kind family would make me feel so welcome. I remember the visit so very well I remember Jon taking me outside and introducing me to his goat, as I recall his name was Bill. He drove me to Paducah that next day and put me on a plane home to my family. I remember him standing there in his military issue raincoat jeans and a flannel shirt with the snow falling on his hair, he looked at me, waved goodbye and sent me on to my way. It’s funny the moments of life that become engraved on your brain plates, I didn’t know it then but that was the last vivid memory of him. I saw him a few times before he left the USMC, but that image is my last brain Polaroid.
I learned from his obituary that he married, had three sons and served two different military branches and now rests in a small primitive family cemetery in Southern Illinois.
Time goes quickly and there are so many people who impact your life and help write your story. Let ’em know.. Better Sooner than Later.
Until Next Time,