And the Walls Came Tumbling Down!

18 12 2016

I gotta admit, I didn’t care much for Gus; he was loud, a braggart, and everything that Rock _ncame out of his mouth was laced with profanity. The thing that got to me most was when he’d talk about his tour of duty in Viet Nam. I have friends and family that fought in that war that would never tell the stores Gus did, they either described it like nothing anyone could imagine or they just didn’t talk about. But Gus told tales about going AWOL, sleeping on guard duty and all the girls he got to know in Saigon. If he talked about warfare it would be the craziest story he could come up in an effort to draw as much laughter as he could. Not wanting to hear his nonsense, I’d stay as far away from Gus as I could.  Having coffee with a friend at work, who happened to be a Korean War veteran; I told him how I didn’t care much for Gus and his obnoxious mouth, and how I found his comments on what he did in the war offensive to all that served. I was gently but firmly rebuked with, “You don’t understand Gus, and since you never served you mostly like never will. He saw more than his share of combat and death, telling his jokes and making others laugh is his way of dealing with the misery that he doesn’t talk about; it like a protective wall he’s put up so he doesn’t have to remember or talk about the bad stuff. Gus is okay; had you served you would understand.” I don’t think I totally bought my friend’s explanation of Gus but I never brought him up again. My thought was “If Gus wants to build a wall to hide behind that’s up to him, I’ll just stay on the other side so I don’t have to deal with the jerk!”

I thought I had remedied my problem with “Gassin’ Gus” as I called him when he took a job somewhere else and I didn’t have to see or hear him anymore. That would take care of the problem; or would it?

Some twenty years passed and I had all but forgotten about old Gus, that is until I ran into him at a store last Christmas. He was heavier gray and wrinkled but I knew him as he recognized me the moment our eyes met. I couldn’t help but notice the hat he was wearing, a hat that identified him as a Nam Vet. He told me he got that when he went on the Honor Flight that summer to D.C.  Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends. “First time you ever been there?” I asked “Yes it was.” “So what did you think?” Something then happened I’d never saw in Gus before; he became eerily quiet and stared off as if he was seeing something no one else could. “I was alright, until I got to the Viet Nam Memorial Wall and saw how large it was will all the names. I found the locations of men’s names I served with who didn’t make it home, and it all came flooding back in my mind.” His voice had drawn quiet and even cracked a little. “So Gus, are you okay after being there?”  A little smile and then “I don’t think I would have been if it hadn’t been for what happened when we got back to the airport. When we all got off the bus and entered the terminal people had lined up on both walls and applauded loudly as we walked down the aisle, many shook our hands and thanked us for our service. I was still doing pretty well until I saw this little girl smiling at me. I smiled back and went to shake her hand; never got the chance! Before I could take another step she ran up and gave me a hug that literally brought me down on my knees where I cried like a baby while I held that child.” Looking through glassy eyes he finished his story by saying, “I had never been more proud of serving my country than I felt that day.”


I’m glad our time together was finished, because I barely made it to my car before the tears ran down my face. I said a little prayer, “God thank you for a softened heart; that was Gus. And thank you for pointing out a jerk who needs to be less judgmental about others; that would be me!

Romans 14:13 “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

I’ve had to wonder since that day what could have happened if I made an attempt to understand and like Gus when I first met him; could I have made a difference in breaking down his wall? I then realized, I had walls of my own that needed to come down.

For my man Gus, it took a memorial wall and a small child with a big hug to tear down the personal wall he hid behind.

For this “Traveler of the Rock Road,” I must remember what it took to break down my walls. For if I leave them up how will anyone see what makes a difference in my life? How can I tell of the child I bow my knee to, the one who can bring me to tears? How can anyone see the love that is in me now because of a “Child in a Manager.”

This season break down your walls.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas, Friends and Family!

See ya next time,




One response

19 12 2016
Beverly Crane

Oh my….I am sitting here reading this blog with tears streaming down. I know there are lots of Gus’ out there. John, your stories always make me stop and look around at my own life. Thank you for all your stories and words of wisdom this year. I look forward to what you have for us in 2017! Merry Christmas to you and your family🎄🎄

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