Dear Editor: Two days before Christmas in 1973, it was cold and beginning to snow when I set out from Great Lakes, Ill., at 6 a.m. to get home to my two boys on Long Island. My sons, Tommy and Bobby, were in a foster home in Levittown because my wife had left us. I was in the Navy and hadn’t enough money to fly home. I always kept my promise to my boys and didn’t want to disappoint them.
Roger, a buddy, had a car and could get me as far as Ohio. I could get a Greyhound bus there, which cost less. The roads were starting to get icy. All of a sudden Roger’s car skidded and hit the back of a truck. We were lucky, though, and escaped unhurt. Now I had to hitchhike.
As I was hitchhiking, I recalled a poem by Robert Frost that went in part as follows, “The woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep and many miles to go before I sleep.”
Which I really had to do. I was 50 miles from Indianapolis. Seeing me in my dress blues, a man who said he never picked up hitchhikers gave me a ride because it was Christmas time. He dropped me off near a ramp that went into town. Just then, another man driving a snow plow saw me and offered me a ride as well. He got me into the main part of town in Indianapolis.
I was walking in snow about a half-foot deep when a young couple picked me up and drove me to the bus station. I got out and wished them a happy holiday. The station was crammed with homebound soldiers and sailors. I struck up a conversation with a young woman who was trying to get home as well in New York City to her daughter. We found out that Greyhound was giving couples first priority, so we presented ourselves as a pair and got a bus sooner.
I finally got to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan at 7 a.m. Christmas Eve. I then got on a F train and a bus which took me to Queens Village where I was greeted heartily by my father-in-law named Charlie and my mother-in law named Barbara. Their daughter named Christine was living in Nevada at the time.
We had breakfast and set out to pick up the boys in Levittown. When we got there Tommy, four, saw me first and yelled out to Bobby, three, that “new daddy” was here. They called me that to distinguish me from their foster parents.
We got back to the Queens Village house and that night and celebrated Christmas. I opened my sea bag and gave my boys their toys – a Mack truck, a fire truck and coloring books and crayons, which I said Santa Claus had entrusted to me when I was up North.
At that, they hugged me and gave a big kiss. My long journey was well worth it. I hope and pray that the many who are serving our country today can make it home safely as I did so long ago. Families are what the holidays are all about. But more importantly it truly means a lot to military men and women to come home during the holidays.
Let me also say, “God bless America and God bless those who are serving our country in faraway lands. They serve us so well protecting what we all hold most dear and that is our freedoms.
FREDERICK R. BEDELL JR.
Glen Oaks Village