Youthful Nonagenarians, the Navy, and Trouble Down in Texas
There are a few veterans who defy all aging, and you just have to ask, "Are you sure you're a WW2 vet?" Such was the case with our friend here. In truth, this picture doesn't quite do justice to his youth. He just seemed... so young.
Our introductory conversation went something like this:
Me: (somewhat ambiguously) "Are you sure you were in WWII?"
Mr. Wright: (confidently) "I was indeed!"
Me: (testing him) "When did you join the navy?"
Mr. Wright: (laughing) "1943"
Faith: (joining the conversation) "Why you must have been 5 years old then! Are you sure that wasn't your dad?"
Mr. Wright: (emphatically) "I'm 90! I was born March 2, 1926."
The only thing Faith and I could do in response was simply to laugh, shrug our shoulders, and agree we'd have to believe him.
Humor put aside, we asked him why he chose the Navy. He told us, "You know, it's funny how the flip of a coin can change your life. I had a good friend who was joining up. I asked him where he was choosing to go, and he said he'd pick the Army. So I decided to join the Navy because it had lots to do with mechanical and engineering. I went to the Pacific and 6 months later I learned he'd been killed in Germany. I always remember that. It could have been me that got killed, but it was him."
After a while, the conversation turned to Texas. Naturally. It's not egotism about our state; it just seems to pop up in the regular discussions, "drawing room" chats, and pretty much all the time.
He said he had been to Texas many years ago, so we asked him how the people treated him and had it been an enjoyable stay. It is a point of pride to most Texans that, besides having the best Mexican food in the country (and that is the tried and tested truth), we are also one of the friendliest states in the U.S. Therefore we are always anxious to hear personally from the visitors to our great state.
"Weeell," Mr. Wright said in his thick midwestern Nebraska accent, "I can't say I had the best time there, nor that the folks treated me so well."
This was shocking, so we begged him to explain.
It turned out that in the mid to late 70s his company sent him down to Texas to quell a labor strike that was creating havoc near Beaumont. The strikers were causing endless trouble, so it looked like he'd have to take up residency for a while. He ended up spending close to a year in Texas over the course of several labor strikes. As is pretty commonly understood, everything related to unions and strikes can be very nasty, so at first he ignored the wild threats to his person and went about his job as usual. "But when they started shootin' at me and puttin' bullets through my bathroom windows (very nearly hitting me), I figured it was time to move a couple of miles out of town."
Things went a little better for him after this, though regrettably (and somewhat humorously), that was his last visit to the great and friendly state of Texas.
So that is the end of the story. Youthful nonagenarians, the Navy, and a bit of a throwback to the wild west of old Texas days. Hopefully though, someday Mr. Wright can make it back down here to experience some real Texan hospitality.