By O’Ceallaigh –
In late November of 1959 I was inducted into the U.S. Army and after receiving all my stuff at Fort Knox, Kentucky, I was flown to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for Basic Training. In our Company, D-3, there were about 50 men, maybe more, maybe less! Who knows? That’s how it all began.
We were a collection of guys from all walks of life and from all levels of society. Wealthy men whose lives had been interrupted by the draft and guys, like me who had not been able to zero in on any goal and had decided to get into the military and get it out of the way so we could get on with our lives. And, everything in between.
But, we were all in the same boat. The military is a great equalizer.
We had a platoon sergeant who was biding his time, waiting for retirement. He was hardly able to walk, much less run! On our marches he would double time us forward while he walked along. Then, when we were just about out of ear-shot he would give the command, “to the rear, march!” and we would turn and double-time back. Fortunately we were training to be Medical Corpsmen. Otherwise we would not have been in appropriate physical condition as soldiers!
One of the guys with us was Ron. He was from San Diego. Ron was a draftee and a little older than I. He was a college student, whether he had graduated yet I can’t recall. He was our Squad Leader, a natural born leader – Quiet and unassuming. We shipped out together to our permanent duty in Germany. He went to Wurtheim and I, to Heidelberg. My assignment was at the 130th Station Hospital. His was, – well, I have no idea! It was in Wurtheim!
Ron showed up at our Hospital post one day driving a new Mercedes. Flabbergasted, I asked, “Where did you get this?”
“I picked it up for a Doctor Friend of mine,” was his answer. Again, he was his unassuming self.
I saw him again at a Servicemen’s retreat in a little village near Berchtesgaden, Germany sometime in 1960. There were about a hundred of us there, staying at a retreat that was used by Adolph Hitler 15 years before. Just across the valley there was a place called “The Eagles Nest” that was supposed to be Hitler’s hideaway in the Southeast Mountains of Germany. It was built for him for his 50th birthday.
It was a spiritual retreat for us with an old preacher friend, E.L. Minchin. I always loved hearing him preach when I was in High School. Ron and I and Zan and several others that we knew had a good time socializing, eating great food and reminiscing that weekend.
We were both discharged in 1962 after the Berlin Wall was completed and our extension of time imposed by President Kennedy was completed. I haven’t seen Ron since that day in Obersalzberg in 1960.
I had to deliver a car to another friend in California in 1962 and took a day to run down to San Diego to look Ron up. I found his house in the suburban hills of the city and knocked on the door. His Mother answered and told me that he had gone to Loma Linda, or somewhere, for the day. That’s where I had just come from, I think! – Ships that pass in the night. – Or, in broad daylight, who knows!!
That was a lifetime ago.
Yesterday I was substitute teaching a rather large class in my church. As I began, a lady in the front row tugged at my sleeve and said, “Tell us who you are!”
I had just assumed that everyone knew little old me and had completely forgotten to introduce myself.
So, I paused and made a brief introduction relating my many years in New York and few years as a Snow-Bird. I told the some two hundred-odd folks there to feel free to grab my hand and say hello if they saw me wandering aimlessly through the halls of the church.
We all laughed, and I taught the lesson.
Walking back down the aisle after the lesson, a man jumped up from a pew and grabbed my hand! “Not too timid,” I thought. I stopped, expecting the usual, “Hey, good lesson! Welcome to our area!!” or something like that.
Instead, this guy said, “We know three O’Ceallaigh’s, were you ever in the service?”
With such an unusual introduction I lifted my eyes to meet his and it blew my mind!
I said, “You’re Ron Green!”
Thy guy’s wife was sitting there taking this all in and when I said that her jaw dropped – she let out a little gasp – and Ron turned to her and said, “He’s my O’Ceallaigh!”
It had been 55 years since that day in that little village near Berschtesgaden and now, 3000 miles from where I knew his home to be and 1200 miles from where mine used to be, our lives intersected – at that moment in time.
It was a God thing.
We’re going to have a leisurely lunch soon and catch up on old times. Our wives will meet for the first time and it will be like no time at all has passed.
That’s the way it is with friends.
I think that it will be something like that in Eternity, too!