Sunday, July 3, 2011

An American Hero and..."The Brass Ring"!

With today's Blog, I'm going to tell you the story about the..."Brass Ring"!
Many years ago (more years than I would like to count) I had the privelige of knowing a marvelous old man. I was 22 years old, a medical corpsman stationed at a military hospital and my entire life lay before me. This gentleman was...100 years old ..., a military veteran and his life was nearly over. Physically, he was in very poor shape. He had suffered untold trials and tribulations defending America in many wars in many distant lands. In one of those wars, he had lost both of his legs. If there ever was an unsung hero, this old man would get my vote. As though a reward for his suffering and bravery, he was blessed, in his old age, with a mind unemcombered with senilty or disease. He was, truely, a page of living history! Each of my duty days, I would look forward to our conversations. I would sit on the chair next to his bed and listen to him tell me about the great moments of his (and America's) past. The history that I read about in school was alive and vibrant and laying serenly in a non-discript hospital bed just a couple of feet away. Day after day, he would turn page after page of his historic life and enhance my understanding of what it meant to be an American. This old soldier, in his youth, had stormed up San Juan Hill with 'Teddy Roosevelt". He had survived the mustard gas and the trenches of World War I. He had raised a family and buried each one. It seemed to me that he was the last survivor of a generation of Americans that bridged the 19th and 20th centuries.
One day, he told me the story about the "Brass Ring"! I have never forgot this story and have used it, as a guiding beacon, for my entire life! For the first time, I will share this story with you.
When he was a young child the old man went to a circus with his family. At this circus was a 'Merry-Go-Round'. As he and the other children would ride the merry-go-round horses, they would try and grab the..."Brass Ring" a post positioned next to the ride. If a child was lucky enough to grab the brass ring, that child would get a free ride on the merry-go-round. Most children tried and most children failed. It seemed that it was always just out of reach. It took daring and perserverence to succeed, but there was abiding danger for all who tried. Reach out too far and the child might fall off his merry-go-round horse and break his arm or his leg. On this day, at this circus, on this merry-go-round ride, in the distant past, a child with his eyes shut, reached far out for the brass ring. As though a dream, the child felt the cold brass metal against his hand. When he opened his eyes, he beheld his fingers firmly clutched around the prize! By reaching further, by perservering, by taking a huge chance, by risking everything, by dreaming the impossible, this child succeeded where the others had failed.
Without being told, I clearly understood the meaning of this story. What the old man was telling me was that it is possible to be anything and do anything with our lives..if we want it bad enough and are willing to...reach for the brass ring!
One day, I came on duty and was greeted with a sad surprise. This old man, this American war veteran and hero, was gone. According to the ward staff, he had gone to sleep and passed, peacefully in the night. I walked to his empty room and over to beside his empty bed. As I stood there, I recalled the words of another American Hero..."Old soldiers never die, they just fade away".

On this day, our Independence Day, it is proper that we stand beneath our unfurled American flag and salute ALL the hero's of our past and present. For it is them that have willed us our freedoms, our liberties, our independence, our futures and our opportunity to..."Reach for the Brass Ring"!

Salute and Happy Days!

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