In early June 1969, I arrived at Fort Bragg to teach ROTC students. I had just returned from Vietnam where, as a major, I received a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.
After work on a Friday afternoon, I left work and drove to Ocean Isle to meet my wife on her birthday.
As I drove through the rural area approaching Elizabethtown, I passed by a large cornfield and saw a police car backed into the field. The officer pulled out, stopped me and charged me with speeding (65 mph in a 55 mph zone). He wrote me a ticket for $25 — I had only $15 — and he allowed me to drive to the nearest store to cash a check.
The store owner asked if I was “one of those soldiers from Fort Bragg.” I answered “yes,” to which he replied that he did not cash checks for soldiers. The cop said I was going to jail and I was to follow him into town, which I did.
When we approached the jail, I saw the sheriff’s office and stepped in. I explained my situation, after which I was told, “get out of my office.” As I was being booked, the jailer noticed my Rolex watch. He said he would give me $10 for the watch to hold while I could find someone to cash a check (and) I did this.
I went to five or six stores and no one would cash my check. I finally went into and Oldsmobile car dealership, where the owner was great and cashed my check promptly.
Fast forward to November 2017.
My wife, grandson and I were traveling from Atlanta to Hilton Head, S.C., for an annual family reunion. We stopped for gas as a station in Macon, Ga., and as I was pumping gas into my car, a young man approached me and asked about the Purple Heart decal on my license tag.
I told him it was issued to me for wounds sustained in Vietnam. He thanks me sincerely for my service and offered to pay for my tank of gas. He was insistent, but I would not accept his offer. He then offered to give me Atlanta Braves baseball tickets for a game next summer.
What a difference.