Happy Birthday to my Brother Tommy

Two Brothers in Forest Today, 17 June, would have been my brother, Tommy’s 77th birthday.  He was a DEA agent when he died, 27 years ago….one month short of his 50th birthday.

Tommy was a unique personality, a great athlete, very personable, and afraid of nothing.  I shared, in an earlier post, how I once made an airplane out of a wagon and an old ironing board for a wing, then took it up on top of the garage so I could launch it.  When I got to the top of the garage and looked down . . . I lost my zeal for flight…but Tommy didn’t.  He begged me to let him fly it, and as he raced down the roof, he had a smile from ear to ear.  The experiment didn’t work, but he never held it against me.

Back in the time of the polio epidemics, Tommy, I, and several of the neighborhood kids, Gerald and Ray, David and Neil, Earl Ray, went swimming in the ditch….even though such a thing was considered to be a polio risk.  Tommy got very sick.  “Tommy, you have polio, but don’t tell mother that we went swimming in the ditch.  You won’t get a whipping ‘cause you’re goin’ to die, but I will, so don’t tell her, okay?”

“Okay,” Tommy said in a weak voice.  Turns out it was only a cold, but don’t think Tommy didn’t use that against me.  “Dickey, do you remember when I was dying but I didn’t tell mother we went swimming in the ditch?  If you’ll give me the rest of your ice cream, I won’t tell her now.”

Tommy had the good looks and the natural “devil may care” attitude that girls found appealing.  In high school, I would get calls from them.  “Does Tommy have a date this Saturday?”  “Yes, he does, but I don’t.”  “No, I don’t want to go out with you.  Will you tell Tommy I called?”

Later, when Tommy went into the army, there was no question but that he would become a paratrooper.  But that devil may care attitude carried over into the army.  Here is an example.  At the time, I was a sergeant, and NCOIC of  Props and Rotors at the maintenance course at Ft. Rucker.  I was in my office working on a lesson plan one day, when one of my men stuck his head in.  “Sarge, there’s a guy out here who says he’s your brother.”

“What?”  I looked out into the bay, and there stood Tommy, in uniform except for his shirt.

“Tommy, what are you doing here?”

“I was on a work detail at the airfield, and I heard someone say they were flying to Ft. Rucker, so I thought I would come over here to see you.”

“Do you have a leave?”

“No.”

“You mean you just came over here on your own?”

“Yeah.  But, you’re a sergeant, so I figured you could get me back to Bragg.”

“Get your ass in the car, private!”

“You can’t talk to me like that.  I’m your brother.”

“I’m a sergeant and you are a PFC who is about to be busted, if I don’t get you back before end of duty.”

I took him out to Cairnes field and after checking around…by a stroke of luck, found a colonel and a major who were going to Bragg in an L-23D (twin engine executive a/c) and they agreed to take him.

“I’m Colonel Roxbury,” the pilot said.

“I’m Tommy.”

I cringed.

Tommy was discharged after three years, and though it was an honorable discharge, he was still a private.  When I made Warrant Officer, and my parents came to see me get my bars pinned on, Tommy complained.  “I made PFC four times….and you never came to see me get promoted.”

After Tommy left the army, he went back to college, then went through the FBI course.  But instead of becoming an FBI agent, he chose to become a DEA agent.  And of course, Tommy became an undercover agent…blending with the absolute dregs of society.  It was very dangerous because if he had ever been “made” he would have been killed.

“Tommy, you have the perfect job,” I told him.  “As a DEA agent, you have to hang around with low-life scum bags, and in the most disreputable bars.  And if you weren’t a DEA agent, you would hang around with low-live scum bags in disreputable bars.”

Tommy may have died in 1990, but he isn’t gone.  I am a firm believer that when we die, we are kept in God’s memory, and the way I interpret that is that, Tommy is just on the other side of my memory.  I can recall the incident of Tommy, racing down the garage roof top in a wagon with a ironing board as a wing…and there, in God’s memory….Tommy is actually reliving that very moment.

Happy birthday, Tommy.  I miss you.

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