Readers Write: Remembering one Christmas, our service members

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 boys on Long Island.

I was in the U.S. Navy than. My boys, Tommy and Bobby, were in a foster home in Levittown because my my wife had left us. I was in the Navy and hadn’t enough money to fly home. I had always kept my promise to my boys and didn’t want to disappoint them. Roger, a fellow Navy buddy, had a car and was traveling as far as Ohio and I could get a bus from there.

After we set out the snow was coming down heavy and the roads were getting icy. All of a sudden Roger’s car skidded and hit the back of a truck. We were lucky, though, and escaped unhurt. Now the car was in no shape to go any further. I decided at that point that I had to hitchhike.

As I was hitchhiking, I recalled a poem by Robert Frost which went as follows: ” The woods are lovely dark and deep but I had promises to keep and many miles before I could sleep.” Which I really had to do. I was 50 miles from Indianapolis, Ind.

Seeing me in my dress blues a man picked me up and said he didn’t pick up hitchhikers but picked me up because it was Christmas. He dropped me off in front of the ramp going into Indianapolis. Just then a man driving a snowplow offered me a ride into town. He dropped me off in town.

As I was walking into town a couple picked me up and asked where I was going and said hopefully to the Greyhound bus station, at that they told me to get into their car and drop me the rest of the way. When we got there I thanked them and wished them a Merry Christmas.

The station was full of soldiers and sailors. The problem was that there were not enough buses for all that wanted to get home for Christmas. I met a young woman who also wanted to get home to her little girl and said that the bus company was taking couples first.

So we presented ourselves as a married couple and got on the bus. I finally got to the Port Authority in Manhattan at 7:00 a.m. which was almost 24 hours later on Christmas Eve.

I then got on a subway and then on a bus going to Queens Village, where I was staying with my ex-in-laws. My father-in-law Charlie and his wife named Barb who was suffering from terminal Cancer greeted me with open arms.

After breakfast, we picked up the boys at their foster home and rang the bell and my oldest named Tommy saw me first and said new daddy was here, which they called me to show the difference from their foster parents. We had dinner at my father-in-law’s house and started opening presents. I open my seabag and gave my boys their presents which I said I received from Santa Claus when I was at the North Pole.

At that they hugged me and gave me a kiss. That was a Christmas I will always remember. May God bless all of our servicemen and women trying to get home this Christmas.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr


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The Island Now

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