Every workday in my home office begins with a ritual. The cover of the roll top is lifted as I gaze upon three items sitting on a top shelf in the desk. When time permits, I reflect at length on these.
I consider a small red plastic box. It is small. It's 1" by 2" by 2" and 1/2" deep. Contained therein are old stamps given to me by Wild Bill. Some are the two cent variety. The rest follow postal increases up through the eight cent stamp. They come from all over these United States. Granddad took them from postcards and letters mailed to him by family and friends.
The treasure houses no potential gold mine. No safety deposit box at the bank is required. It's of great worth, but the value is sentimental. The container reminds me of the man. When I behold it, I remember him. His thinking mode was set when life was not so complex. He was an early twentieth century quintessential American. He valued principle. He believe in a hard day's work. Family and friends were important to him. When I eye that box, I am touched by the fact that Wild Bill gave it to me. He prized those stamps. That is of significance to me.
Having special meaning for me is another gift lying alongside the red box. It is a pocket-sized brown Bible. The book was printed and issued to the nation's fighting men in 1917 by the American Bible Society. Wild Bill's brother, our Uncle Henry, carried it with him to Europe. It was always in his backpack, as he fought in the trenches of World War I.
When my dad left for military duty in January of 1943, Uncle Henry placed the safekeeping of that holy book on my father's hands. The little brown Bible was a source of strength for him as his unit pursued the Nazis across the European continent. As my eyes come in contact with this book of Scriptures, I am reminded that freedom does not come cheap. No bargains out there. It has a tremendous cost.
A Precious Piece of Silver
Juxtaposed with the box of stamps and the Bible sits another memento that speaks to me. The silver POW bracelet is inscribed "1lt. Ronald Forrester 12-27-72." I've owned it since the mid-seventies. The bracelet means several things to me. It tells me that my brother's fate is unresolved. The slim possibility exists that he may yet be alive. As long as there is any flicker on the candle of hope, we will not write him off.
We expect the government to continue to work toward resolution of this issue. We expect them to pressure Vietnam for answers. They owe it to Ron. He put his life on the line for the U.S.A. forty-seven times. The bracelet reveals more to me. At one time, my brother belonged to Uncle Sam. Now, whether he be dead or alive, he belongs to God. He always did.
As I am transfixed by the bracelet, I remember my brother. He was competitive. He was committed. He was dedicated. He was kind and caring. He was personable. I looked up to him. He was the best and the brightest. The little silver piece that rests on that shelf reminds me of something else. It causes me to think on Thomas Jefferson's concept of freedom. Yes, my brother has watered the tree of liberty.
The POW bracelet serves, as well, as a source of inspiration. I realize when I look at it that I have the opportunities in life my brother has not had. I'm watching my children grow. I, myself, can embrace them with great regularity. Shoot ! I don't go to the mailbox without giving them a kiss. Ron was not as fortunate. He would be thrilled to know that his daughter chose to attend Texas A&M.
I have the chance my brother never had. I am working in the business world as a manufacturer's representative. I know the thrill of signing a contract to sell for a major representative. I know, too, the depth of despair and the fear of financial ruin when I've been blindsided by a company for whom I have had a long term association. I know about chasing orders. I've been depressed when I lost a big quote to a competitor. Conversely, I've been on that mountain top of ecstasy when the big order was placed with us.
Things surely haven't always gone my way. I've been in business for myself for over ten years. In three of those years I made some decent money. I made considerably more than I was used to earning. In some of the other years, we've almost starved to death. In every month of those years, we've been challenged to make the bare minimum which would enable us to pay our bills.
Still, we were in the hunt. We've been able to play the game, and it's been fun. When I behold the bracelet, I remember that my brother isn't in the professional ranks. He has not been able to use his engineering skills in the world under construction.
Like the stamp box and the Bible, that silver trinket is symbolic of much meaning for me.
I do struggle through many days. In so doing, I attempt to apply Ron's philosophy of jumping out of airplanes to my life. Opportunity abounds. Blue sky is everywhere. It surrounds us. When thinking of him, no push is required. I am determined to risk the plunge. May God grant us his zest for life.