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Steve Wanted to Kill Me..I just Knew It......A Veterans Tale

In my late teens I was naive, squirrely, painfully shy and generally fearful, which was made up for by trying to be macho. Such is the way of teenage humanity.

It was 1978 and I had worked with Steve for over a year and a half. I should say worked near by Steve in the shop.

Steve was a loner I guess you could say, he didn't small talk or joke around like the rest of the guys. Steve was a vet. There were other vets working there also. There was Emil the Polish American artillery man that lost his left arm in the war. He had one of the most snarly demeanor's I've ever seen on a human which was all a put on. Probably to intimidate punk kid's like me. And there was Will also. An Oriental guy well over 6 feet tall from Mindanao who walked really bad and liked to ***** about the Japs that broke his knees. Nice guys both and I"m honored to have known them.

And then there was Steve..

Steve was around 6'2" square shouldered, rail straight and his face was frozen into a snarling grimace. A curled lip look of menace or disgust that scared the crap out of me. And he had freaking red eyes, FREAKING RED EYES! And he worked right behind me with that look of total disgust. And he had tics too. He was always swatting bugs that weren't there by his right ear. Trouble is he was right handed and had a razor sharp deburring tool in his hand that was waving around. I knew he wanted to kill me.

It was mentioned in whispers, little pieces of the puzzle of Steve. Too many flight in too many shot up aircraft with shot up buddies over Europe.....It was mentioned out the side of peoples mouths in hushed tones....shell shock....combat fatigue...they didn't have PTSD back then..and I just new he hated me and wanted to kill me.

He had to hate me. I was probably the embodiment of every thing he hated. Long haired, bell bottom wearing care free, punk.

Then one day in April of 78 we went on strike. Had to pull picket duty for 20$ a week and do my duty. Then one day the other guys decided to go to lunch. They said "Hey kid let's go to Chink's for lunch". I replied that I was only 19 and it wasn't a good idea. They said it's all right so I tagged along expecting the worst.

We were a motley crew walking the 2 blocks to "Chink's Foundry Lounge". A 500 pound tool maker, a 6 foot Oriental, a one armed Pollack waiving his hook and swearing at traffic , a hippy looking punk, and Steve holding up the rear swatting at bugs that weren't there.

To this day I have never seen a seedier dive than Chink's. Housed in the ratty bare floored office of a defunct foundry and sweet Jesus the bar tender looks like an older Brock Lesnar with tattoo's and a military buzz.

We walk in and he says sternly "Hey guy's, that kid's too young". The boy's replied "He's all right Chink". Chink gets a little louder " He's way too young"! By this time I'm inching towards the door in case Chink wants to chase me out with a club. It was common to run off under age kid's back then with a stick of some kind to put a little fear of God in them. I was already scared by the looks of Chink and his demeanor. I moved to take a step towards the door to avoid any trouble when a big hand grabs my shoulder. Jesus Christ now Steve's got me. He holds me firm and in a voice I'd never heard come out of him before, he says "CHINK I SAID THIS KID'S ALL RIGHT".....All of a sudden, Chink replies , in a very sheepish tone..."All rrright Steve, what ever you say". All was well. I think it was that day I saw that Steve really had steely blue eyes. Sad, but steely blue.

One of the proudest moments of my life. 40 years later I still remember that Steve said I was alright and I think about it when I'm feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. If a vet like Steve says you are alright, you can take it to heart that you have untapped resources to get through life.

I don't know what I had ever done to warrant any respect our consideration from those brave, wounded vet's. I knew I needed to do a lot more of it. Especially Steve.... Did I mention he had steely blue eyes?
 
There is a certain amount of respect accorded to those who have "been there, done that". One year our Reserve Regiment was to troop the Colours in Front of our Colonel in Chief, the Duke of Kent. Big honour. Also in attendance would be one of the last surviving Canadian VC honorees. Long story short, we are back in the Armoury, and his Royal Highness does his honours in the OR Mess for a round. The barman immediately comes over to take his drink order and the first thing he does is point to the other end of the bar where Ernest (Smokey) Smith, VC is standing with an empty glass. The message was clear . . . the Duke knew who had "been there, done that", and with one finger pointed to who was the one to be truly respected in that mess.
 

simon1

Self Ignored by Vista
Good story, and very well written.

Dad passed on this day in 1995...go figure. WWII combat rifleman in France, Belgium, and Germany.
 
My next door neighbor was a German ace in World War 2. The problem was that he flew for the Americans. He did a full tour in bombers, saw his brother get killed in another plane and did a full tour in fighters. He crashed 5 American planes so his outfit created a Cross of Iron for him. He came back to the US after the war, bought a private plane....and crashed it.
My dad was a clerk for the 8th Air Corps. Of all the WW2 vets I knew, my dad was the only one who was never in combat.....which made him the envy of all the WW2 vets.
 
Great stuff fellas. My dad was a fourteen year vet of the Kansas National Guard. 1952-60 and 1968-74. How he managed to never be deployed overseas was beyond me. It is a humbling experience when the colour guard hands your mother the folded flag.
 
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