Al would want me to order two ice cream cones. “Get one for me,” he’d say, so I would do that. I’ll buy two ice creams and give one to a friend. I don’t tell them it’s from my buddy. He wouldn’t want it that way. It’s a just a wink through time, from him to us.
Stan would want me to make a friend in a new state. We were in San Francisco on leave, on our bikes in a densely-packed neighborhood, when I heard a lady’s sharp voice. She was leaning out of her third-story apartment window, calling to her kids in Armenian. I’m a Lawrence, Mass boy, but our language is our language, so I called back to her: “Hey, I’m Armenian!”
She looked at me and said, “Come on up! You want some lunch?” And I said, “I have my friend with me.”
“Bring him up too.”
Later as we relaxed with her two children, she said to me, “Any time you are in a strange town, and you need something to eat, or a place to stay, you open the phone book for an Armenian name. Even if you just need a friend.” And like that the room became very warm. Stanley, the Polish kid, was smiling at me, ear to ear. Beaming with pride, for what I’d learned that day.
Rick would want me to read that book. I told him I loved stories but hated reading. He patted his haversack and said that’s because I’d not found the right writers. He was in one campaign, near the end of the war, Okinawa. I’d been through four. He was picked off by a sniper on a trail that’d been cleared, and his CO gave his book to me. I’ve shared that book with two-hundred and sixty-five readers since.
Buddy would want me to enjoy my time in the shade. I was wounded way worse than him, I got evacuated and they propped him under a piece of canvas to keep him out of the sun.
The medics worked on the worse-injured, lying all around him, while he laid patiently for his turn. Which never came.
When I’m in South Carolina and sitting at the Hilton’s Homewood Suites pool, I grab a nice shaded spot. I have my sweet tea on ice and enjoy the sounds of the children in the water. Buddy: I’m doing what you’d dearly want me to do.
Al, Stan, Rick, and Buddy. We bring you forward because we need to live well. That’s your lesson for us: Make this count. And we do. We remember you.