If you haven’t read 1 of 7, please go and do so before you read this one.
“Man, I’m glad you asked me…”
“Hey Thomas! How are you, my friend?” Joe interrupted. “I’d like you to meet my new friend Tom, here.” He said, turning to me. “Tom, this is Thomas. He’s a fighting man like you never seen. Three times a POW, well hell, I’ll let him tell ya.” he gushed, as he sat back down.
Thomas, sitting down to join us, asked for another round to be delivered to the table.
“Hi Tom, I’m Thomas. Thomas Alexander of the “Fighting Alexanders”. Artillery Gunner and as you heard, 3 time POW. Bad luck, I guess…or good, pendin’ on how ya look at it.”
I joined up with my brothers. We all wanted to fight. Someone had to defend us, might as well o’ been us. My first deployment was a river FOB. We got hemmed in and fought like nobodies business, but eventially, they overrun us.
That’s when I got took prisoner the first time, for seven months. That weren’t no joke. They treated us like animals, dragged us all over the place til they finally traded us back fer some o’ ther own men.”
After the trade, I got sent to reinforce another river outpost. It might seem like I got choice assignments,but they had a bad habit of getting overrun.
In March of 63, the enemy laid seige and we fought. Man, did we fight. We repelled the enemy attack 3 times before they finally forced us to surrender.
The enemy didn’t have the means of holding us,but I got wounded somethin’ awful and they kept me in the hospital for 6 weeks. Once I’s feelin better, they just let me go. Craziest damn thing I ever heard of.”
Shaking my head, I asked him why they let him just walk away. He thought about it for a moment and shook his head.
“I guess they thought I’s just gonna head on to the house. They don’t know no Alexanders, I reckon.”
As the three of us laughed, another person walked up to the table. Just as Thomas began to tell his story again, the new guy jumped in:
“Don’t believe a word either of these two says. They can’t be trusted.”
I was nervous at this statement, blurted out in a stern, authoritative voice. My nerves were settled immediately, as Thomas and Joe erupted in laughter.
“This guy? Don’t pay him no mind, he’s always messing up a good story. ” Thomas said, Loud enough for everyone in the place to hear.
“So anyway, I’s headed back to my unit when I git orders to head down to the coast. Beachfront river blockade, if you believe that.
So now I’m back on the river, defendin’ against the enemy Navy. I’m a dang farm boy from Tennessee. What I know about some boats?” He said more than asked.
“Hell, I ain’t never even seen a boat, to this point, but I can shoot artillery with best of em. Like this devil dog & his rifle, I can take the skin off a skeeters ass at half a mile. Ain’t that right, Sgt Major?”
At this point, I turned to look at the latest arrival and immediately stood to my feet. “My apologies, Sgt Major. I had no idea.” As I gestured toward the two blue ribbons around his neck that held his medals. “I had no idea you were a Medal of Honor recipient, sir…and twice? Holy shit,” I stuttered, “…you’re Dan Daly?”
“Yes, Marine. I’m Dan Daly and I’d appreciate it if you’d knock off that sir shit.”
“Yes Sir. Can I say what an honor it is to meet you?” I gushed like a school girl. This man is pure Marine Corps steel, through and through.
“Thank you, son. I’m gonna get another round and let Thomas finish his tall tales.”
“I’s almost finished anyway, Dan. After command put me on the beach, things was perdy quiet for a long spell. Then, outta nowhere the enemy starts hitting us left and right.”
“Just like before, they tried and we pushed em back. Even sank some of their boats. Being’s I never seen a boat ‘fore blowing em up and sinking em, I think I’ll stick to farming.” He joked as he finished his drink.
His eyes darkened, and his voice fit quieter. “They took us a few months later and I’s sent to another POW camp.
This time, I thought I’d found heaven at first. Nice racks and 2 hot meals a day until that Yankee weather took hold to us Weren’t long in the New York winter til we started dropping like flies.”
His countenance saddened and he averted his eyes. In a shaky, much quieter voice, he said “we was losin a dozen or two men a day in that Yankee hell hole.
Chronic diarrhea, infection, sickness…you name it. If it can kill a man, we were getting it.”
“Dear God, I’m sorry to hear that, Thomas.” I told him. I couldn’t think of much more than that. I mean, what do you say to something like that? I can’t even imagine what they went through.
“Well, I sure am glad you made it home, brother.” I wanted to make him feel better, to do something to change the awkward moment we were all feeling.
“Dan! What happened to that round, you salty Bastard?” Joe called out across the room.
The awkward sadness deftly averted, our conversation continued…