My wife’s hug was a good time for a break. I got up and walked around checking on my still sleeping children, got a fresh cup of coffee, watched the neighbor’s dog in a futile attempt to catch another neighbor’s cat and then went back to my nice chair and the letter.
I looked at my watch and realized how late it was getting. I told Jill that I had better go find a hotel but if it would be OK that I would like to come back and take them both out for breakfast. She quickly agreed and as I was leaving she told me that she was going to do something that she had thought that she would never do again when the three Army officers came to her house to give her the unwelcome telegram. She kissed me on the cheek. It was a kiss that I will always remember. It was to be the first of many kisses that I remember but that one was special indeed.
I spent the morning with Jill and Jimmy. I felt like I had known them both for a long time yet that wasn’t possible was it? I left about noon. I asked her if I could write to her. She gave me her address and then she asked if she could have my telephone number so that she could call me in an emergency. I gave her my telephone number. The drive home seemed to take less time than the drive to Gary Indiana did as all I could think about was Jill and Jimmy.
For the next 3 months I wrote to Jill every day and sometimes twice a day. After about two months I asked myself if I was falling in love with Jill. I had dated a number of girls when I was in high school but none when I was in the military. Looking back on things after hearing Diamond Jim describe his wife none of the girls who I saw on leave met her standard so I dated only as a favor to one of my buddies as one fourth of a double date. When I met Jill I knew that I had met the girl of my dreams, one last gift from my best friend.
During those three months I helped out on the farm, worked at one of my brother’s service station and helped some of my neighbors on their farms. Mostly I repaired trucks and farm machinery. One day Jill sent me a letter where she wrote that she had a great uncle who had a trucking business fifteen miles out of Gary. He wanted to retire but wanted to leave his business in good hands. She wrote that she told me that she told him about me. She wanted to know how quickly I could get up to Indiana. I didn’t even write back. I put on that suit that had grown even more tattered and torn, then went to my bank took out all of my money, filled my car with as much of my personal things as I could fit in to it and went to my brother’s service station. His parting gift to me was a filled gas tank. I drove through the night and was on Jill’s porch by 1:15 PM. Our greeting was much warmer this time than it was the first time. Jill said, “Took you long enough to get here, bad weather?”
Jill took me to see her uncle. He and I hit it off right away. He agreed to sell me his business except that he wanted me to work with him for six months first to see if I could handle his business well. His business was short and long haul trucking. He had one truck for short hauls and three trucks for long hauls. He called his company Rabbit Trucking. The first thing that I noticed was that his trucks all seemed to run rough. On my first day I tuned up two of his trucks and fixed engine problems on the other two trucks. After I fixed them they ran like they were new. The second day I began to work on his books. He had some serious book keeping problems. It took me three weeks to get his accounts back in shape. It really was time for Jill’s uncle to get out of the business.
I am not sure whether when I got in to the business it was a great time or it was I was just a great fit for the business, because the business began to really take off when I started working it almost from the first week. By the time I took over the business we had enough work for me to buy two new semi trucks. One thing that really disturbed me was that everywhere I went there were unemployed veterans. I wanted to try and help. I even called a few of my buddies from my platoon. They were in pretty bad shape. No matter what they did they couldn’t find a job. They were the first two who I hired. In the mean time Jill, Jimmy and I had become a family. I asked Jill to marry me a month before I took over the business. We were married the same day that I became owner. I had never been so happy.
A month after I took over I changed the name of the business from Rabbit Trucking to Veterans Transportation. I called it that because I wanted to help as many veterans as I could by having as many veterans as I could work for me. Fourteen months later Jimmy had a new sister, twenty-one months later Jimmy had a little brother, then eighteen months later Jimmy had another brother and then twenty-six months later Jimmy had another sister. In that that short time Veterans Transportation had an amazing growth spurt. We went from six trucks to a fleet of six hundred trucks by the time our youngest daughter was born and it has continued to grow ever since.
I have lead a wonderful life don’t you think? My best choice of course was to love my God and to serve him as well as I can. Now near the end of my life I can especially see the wisdom in that choice. The next best choice I made was to make Diamond Jim my best friend. Your grandfather was truly among the best men God ever created. My third best choice of course was to marry your beautiful wonderful grandmother.
Now that I am old I no longer have that graduation suit of mine the one that grew really tattered and torn over the years. I am now the one that is tattered and torn. My hearing and vision ain’t what it used to be, I can hardly walk to the mail box. I woke up this morning and noted that my heart was still beating so I felt like this would be a good time to write to you about some old memories and at least part of your heritage. I could write more but anything else that you need to know you can ask your grandmother if you can read her diaries. In them you will find beautiful records of some wonderful memories.
You, your Dad, Diamond Jim and I are forever connected as brothers in arms as members of the greatest military in the world. I am proud of you.
Your proud Pa Pa
When I finished reading the letter I felt drained. I had never read anything quite like this before. While reading the letter I experienced almost every emotion that a man can experience. How could reading a letter bring me back in time like this one had? I felt like I had read the writings of a hero and one who did not believe he was a hero. I had never known a hero or even read anything personal written by a hero before but after reading this letter I wanted more than anything to have known him. I wondered who the young soldier was, why he would ever let go of such a wonderful letter and where did he live now? I took the letter to my wife and said, “Drop everything you are doing and read this letter. It’s like no letter that you have ever read before I guarantee it.