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"BRAVO" AND "BILLY D"



I have seen a lot of sadness in my lifetime. I suppose the saddest time, other than my 11 years in an orphanage, was after my 22-year marriage ended. She went her way and I went mine.

Once again, just like the day I left the orphanage, I was homeless and almost penniless. In the last nine years, I have made my way back to somewhat of a normal life. I thought that most of the sadness to be found in my life was now behind me, but I see that some form of sadness follows each of us our entire lifetime.

I never was much of a drinker. Alcohol never gave me any comfort from the pain and sadness in my life. Besides, I needed to stay fully alert at all times to protect myself from many dangers in the world. Don't really know why exactly. Just sort of felt that way ever since I was a little kid getting the crap beat out of me.

I remember walking into a strange bar about 10 years ago to have a cold beer. Over the next year, I returned to the bar about once a week to have a drink and talk a little about my problems.

From the very first day I went to the bar, I met the owner. The patrons called him "Billy D." Not really sure what his name is even though I have known him going on some 10 years. He and his friend "Bravo" own and operate the bar. The two of them met in Vietnam during the war. If I am not mistaken, Billy D saved Bravo's life during a firefight with the Viet Cong. Bravo now walks around without the use of his left arm. It hangs stationary and motionless across his lower stomach.

The two of them did not seem to want to talk about what actually happened. I guess it was a bloody mess and most of their platoon was killed in a matter of minutes. Many Vietnam vets don't talk much about what happened over there. If you want that type of information, you have to read it from their eyes and in their faces.

As the years passed, I watched the two of them as they aged. Over time, the business slowed down and they were barely hanging on to the bar. When I met my wife, I decided to hang up going out for a beer, so I did not see either of them for a couple of years.

I was up to the local hospital last year and saw an elderly gentleman who appeared to be lost in the hallway. He was just standing facing the wall.

"Can I help you, sir," I asked.

When he turned around, I almost fell over. It was Billy D.

"Billy D, it's me, Roger," I said.

He did not have the slightest idea who I was. He looked to be a slumped over, 90-year-old, confused old man. He had walked down the hallway, until it ended. He could not figure out how to turn right and then left again to continue walking on down the hallway.

When I returned home, I called the bar and spoke with Bravo. I found out that Billy D. suffered a stroke and would most likely never fully recover. Bravo, along with a few friends, has operated the bar and taken care of his partner, and friend for more than a year now. He has fed, washed and clothed him every day since he had his stroke.

I was once again at the hospital yesterday. While there, I ran into Rendy who is the bartender at the bar. She told me that Bravo had been hospitalized because he suffered a severe heart attack. I got his room number from the front desk and walked up to his room. When I walked in, he looked terrible. He too did not know who I was. He lied there as if he were a vegetable.

After leaving the hospital, I drove to the bar. There sitting on a bar stool leaning over the counter was Billy D. There was no one else in the bar except Billy, me, and Rendy, the bartender.

"Billy," I said as I patted him on the back when I walked by.

Very slowly, he turned his head to look at me, but he said absolutely nothing. He just looked up and stared off into the distance. Just as slowly, he turned back around and began to sip his beer.

"Mentally, he comes and goes," said Rendy, the bartender.

I sat for several minutes wondering what was going to happen to these two brave men, soldiers who had once upon a time fought for their country.

"HEYYYYYYYYYY!" screamed Billy D.

Slowly, he raised his beer at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

"Heyyyyyyyyyyyy!" he said again as the sound faded away a little at a time.

I looked over at the bartender and she just shook her head.

"It's sad. It's really, really sad," she said. "I am doing all that I can to care for Billy D and Bravo, but it is not easy to keep everything going around here."

It hurts me to see such brave men slowly fade away, but I guess it will one day happen to us all. What bothers me even more is to see two brave soldiers with no family to care for them. All that I have been able to offer them in the past was my business and the respect that they deserve for having served their great country.



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