Monday, July 2, 2007

You can take the boy out of the country. . .

In the thirty-seven years since Dave served as a sentry dog handler in Thailand during the Vietnam war, he has taken an active and tenacious interest in veterans' rights. He's always been a gregarious guy who continues to maintain correspondence with former friends and especially fellow Air Force handlers, and can be counted on to stop for a visit if he's in their neck of the woods, be it Idaho or Maine. He has attended and spoken at rallies at VA hospitals, as well as travelling with the Tour of Honor for the Veterans for Kerry/Edwards throughout Wisconsin in 2004. What I am most touched by has been his earnest search for the current whereabouts of his
K-9 partners from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. Recently he mentioned that he thought he'd found another one of his Thailand friends. He knew Greg Wyatt came from Minnesota and when he searched further there was someone with the same name who had a strawberry farm near Redwing. With visions of strawberries in my head I encouraged him to drive down to see him last week. Even though he started to get cold feet at the last turn down a dusty county road, everything seemed right that this was indeed the friend he'd last shared a dog post with in Thailand. There is always the possiblity that he didn't want to be 'found.'

When we did find the Wyatt Strawberries sign we saw a man on an older blue tractor pulling a cultivator between rows of strawberries. Dave got out of the van and slowly walked across the road. I stayed inconspicuously out of the way but was able to see the reunion unfold without sound. Talking, talking, then Greg sitting on his tractor began to slowly nod his head in agreement. Then they shook hands. I had goosebumps.

Dave had brought along photos of Greg and his dog Tuck when he had more dark hair and like most of these Vietnam vets, a little less girth. Sadly Greg's wife had died two years earlier but he remembers that 'she was the best farm wife.'
While they visited in the clear early evening, I walked a bit on some of the 40 acres he owns. The loamy soil is excellent for growing strawberries and asparagus. Corn grows on half of his farm and the rest is planted in roses and other plants for Bailey Nurseries, one of the largest plant wholesalers in the world.
After the short reunion the two city folk shook the farmer's rough hand, promising to meet up again. Two quarts of decadently delicious strawberries were tucked safely away in our cooler. As we drove down the road I could see Greg back on his tractor heading up another row.


InlandEmpireGirl said...

I got goosebumps just like you. What a powerful story.

Marianne said...

How wonderful.
I have so many memories, feelings, thoughts from the Viet Nam War era, they linger with me and I'm so glad to hear that Dave is so active about veterans' rights. That he goes that extra mile and then see and visit with his old buds. What an exceptional man.

Granny Smith said...

What a touching story. I'm glad to hear that Dave is working for the rights of veterans. When I worked with the homeless on the streets of Berkeley, many were Vietnam veterans abandoned by their country.

Julie Marie said...

what a great story. My husband was a Navy Corpsman (medic) during the Vietnam War. I am sure he would appreciate Dave's efforts.