Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
San Antonio, Texas, has been one of my favorite places since I drove there in my new black Corvette after graduation from West Point to visit my ex-roommate, Gary Walk. We had graduated the week before from West Point and had a month off before we reported to our first duty stations. It would be 25 years before we would see each other again.
After stopping to visit my parents back on our farm near East Canton, Ohio, I drove to Chicago, then along the Mississippi through Memphis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Beaumont, Texas and on to San Antonio. Looking around where I thought Gary lived according to the address I had, he suddenly came running up to my car. He flagged me down, threw a loaded pistol onto the passenger seat and said, “Drive around. Hide this. Come back later.”
I said, “See ya later,” and drove away. When I came back Gary and I went to a bring-your-own-bottle bar his mother owned --bars in San Antonio did sell liquor in those days--and we reminisced about our time at West Point. I returned the pistol; his mother’s boyfriend was not to be trusted with it.
Gary was an American Army “brat” who had gone to high school on a US base in Germany. I studied German at West Point and had been assigned to an officer exchange with the German Military Academy in Muensterlage, near Celle in Germany, for a summer and my German was very good. Gary felt it was his duty to fix me up with my first “girlfriend”--if you know what I mean--Rita, who had been his girlfriend in high school; a very nice and good-looking young German lady about our age. He thought it was time for me, knowing all the effort I had put into finding a girl during the time we were exiled in our Rock-Bound Highland Home, sequestered from society while we were cadets. I met Rita near the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and we stayed a few days at a small hotel while she showed me around town and taught me a few things. Details in reports to follow-maybe.
Gary had also visited me in Ohio and stayed with me at my uncle‘s home in Ossining, New York, where one night we drank a whole bottle of my uncle’s finest scotch.
After San Antonio, I shipped my Corvette ahead of me to Europe and went off to Ranger School at Fort Benning.
I was later assigned to the 1/77 Field Artillery, direct support to the 2nd Brigade 1st Air Cavalry Division in Vietnam. I later resigned from the Army and spent a career in international business.
A generation later Gary commanded that same unit, the 1/77. The First Cav was now stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, just up the trail (in Texas terms) from San Antonio, where Gary later retired as a Colonel and together with his wife, Coella, retired from service.
Gary finished his military career afflicted with cancer of everything due to Agent Orange. His mobility was also affected, but not his mind. One time while my family and I were staying with him and Coella, we told our old stories and he honored me by telling about how he never forgot how I helped him prepare for his wedding on the day of his graduation from West Point. He had to lay out his uniform, work on his brass and pack up for wedding, departure and honeymoon. I told him to use my bunk as a bench to arrange things and I just slept on the floor out of his way so he could get all his wedding paraphernalia ready. This was just a small courtesy that I forgot about.
Gary never forgot. On my last visit with my entire family to San Antonio, he shared these and other stories with Coella and my wife and daughters.
In his last days while I was visiting one time by myself, Coella told me he wanted to talk to me one-on-one in his bedroom, where he was surviving with oxygen and liquid tubes running in and out of his body. He was saying goodbye and we both knew it.
Gary passed away after I returned to California. A few days after his death, two pairs of boots, a Lucchese Black Lonestar Classic handcrafted in San Antonio and a Tony Lama Pecan Caiman with hand-tooled tops made in El Paso were delivered to my home. Coella had sent them to me, knowing that Gary would like me to have them and that we happened to have exactly the same boot size.
I wrote a thank you note to Coella telling her that I could fit but never fill Gary’s Boots.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.