The question I get the most about writing a column like this for over twenty years is ‘ where do you get your ideas I’ll skip the answer to that for some other week. The next one is ‘ what’s your column about
I always answer that it’s a commentary on life, satire, sometimes political, sometimes about relationships, just about anything that happens to be of interest to me in the current week.
This week it’s about Bill Gleason.
Who is Bill Gleason you might very well ask’
Well, he’s one of those people in your life that comes in and stays and your life is all the better for his presence.
I can’t begin to tell you when Bill first started working with me. Not for me, but with me. It was well over twenty-five years ago, I know that much. He was a retired Army sergeant, airborne, infantry, tough as a boot with a heart of gold. He served our country in the Korean War as well as in Viet Nam.
I never called him Bill, I always called him Pappy. He always called me boss.
He was the kind of person that you could be away from for a long period of time and then when you got together, it was like you had only been gone since yesterday. You picked up where you left off without any trouble. All of us should have a friend such as this.
Pappy was always in a good mood. I don’t think I can remember ever seeing him without a smile on his face and laughter in his voice. He drank more coffee than any man alive and always had a good story to tell about his daughter and his grandkids. He was proud of them all.
Pappy was one of those veterans who never talked about what happened to him or what he did. But you knew he had done and seen it all. When I was I Washington a few years ago visiting the Viet Nam Memorial I called him and asked him if he wanted me to buy him anything’ he told me that was history and he didn’t need any more reminders, thank you anyway.
I remember one morning at the office very clearly; I was drinking a cup of coffee with him and happened to look at his arms. It looked as if someone had taken a hammer to him and beaten him. He was black and blue all up and down from his shoulders to his wrists. I asked him what it was and he told me he thought it came from his being exposed to Agent Orange so many times in Viet Nam.
I started doing some research and found these were indeed the symptoms of Agent Orange exposure. Pappy’s arms weren’t getting any better.
After about two weeks I made contact with a friend of mine who is a well-known attorney in Houston, I drove Pappy down to his office. This attorney had started handling some of the first Agent Orange cases and was trying to get the government to admit that our soldiers could have some continuing medical issues for years to come.
The attorney looked at Pappy’s arms and explained to him that he would be happy to take the case at no cost to Pappy and that he thought he could make a case against the government.
Pappy looked at him and asked So just who would you sue
The attorney answered Why the government, of course.’
Pappy stood up and said there wasn’t any way he was going to do that. He said that when he joined the Army, he fully expected to die for his country and didn’t think it would be fair to sue them if anything happened to him as a result of his service.
The attorney and I both explained that we thought it was one thing to die in combat fighting for your country but another matter if you were harmed by your own forces.
Pappy said it still didn’t matter; he wasn’t going to sue the United States or the United States Army. That was the end of that.
Pappy has been retired for some years now and has lived with his daughter. We talk often and laughed about the old days when we worked together. I knew there was a problem a few weeks ago when I got a call on my home phone from his daughter. He had been having a problem with his gall bladder and hadn’t told anyone he was in pain or hurting.
Very typical for Pappy.
I called him several times to cheer him up and joke with him and we thought he was on the way to making a full recovery.
Unfortunately the Commander in Chief in the Sky decided Pappy was needed for a roll call in Heaven and he was taken from us last Sunday. I’ m sure God has a use for an old straight leg who has served with honor here on Earth for so many years.
We’ll miss you, but we’ll never forget you. I’ m proud to have known you as my friend.
Rest in peace.