By Judy Brandon: Local columnist
On this Memorial Day weekend, I have to retell the story about the man I met several years ago. I have written about him before, but I think it calls for retelling.
I was on a plane from Albuquerque to Lubbock. My heart was touched as I saw an elderly gentleman board with a wheelchair and the help of all the flight attendants. He sat down by me.
“How are you, miss?” he asked me.
“I am fine, sir, and how are you?” I asked.
He was having trouble fixing his seat belt so I volunteered to hold the drink he had brought aboard while he got situated for the airplane’s takeoff.
“Thank you kindly, dear,” he answered as he handed me his water.
He was dressed in Levi’s and had a billed cap with the name of an equipment company on it.
When he got situated, he turned to the stewardess and asked, “Is this a 500 series?” I supposed he was talking about the make or model of the airplane.
“Yes it is,” she said and then they talked about the plane.
We took off, and as we rose above the clouds, he said, “I guess he is goin’ to have to get around these cumulus clouds. There sure are a lot of them today.”
He then asked me where I had been and I told him. He asked me about my family and I filled him in on a little of my life and what had taken me to Arizona.
He had been to the VA hospital in Albuquerque for an appointment that morning and was on his way back to Lubbock. I could see that he was in pain. But his kind demeanor and perfect manners did not give a hint of anything but complete positive attitude and charm.
Then he said, “The pilot is takin’ more of a 45-degree turn here. He must anticipate some pretty bad turbulence up ahead.”
So I asked him,” Are you a pilot?”
He answered, “Yes ma’am I am. I flew a Birdogger in the war but was a pilot before.”
Then he looked out the window. “When we see the Pecos River, we’re half there. Looks like he’s goin’ a little north of Fort Sumner. … The Pecos River will be on your side.”
We watched. There was the Pecos.
Near the end, he pointed out Portales and Morton, Texas.
“He’s shuttin’ em down a little early. … Lubbock is coming up,” my friend said.
We descended into Lubbock. I got off first because it was going to take him some time to get back into his wheelchair. He bent over in his seat to retrieve my package stored under the seat in front of me.
I turned to leave and shook his hand goodbye.
He tipped his hat to me and said, “Yes ma’am. … Nice meetin’ you.”
I left the plane.
Some memorials may be carved out in the rock and some are steel structures that stand for years.
But that day on the plane, I saw this old gentleman as a memorial. He was fighting for me when I was but a toddler. He had bought my freedom at a high price.
Joshua commanded the Hebrew children to always make sure their children remember (Joshua 4). These are critical days in our country. We must teach our children to remember the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom. They must know about the past so they can appreciate what they have in the present.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: