To The Editor:
Two days before Christmas in 1973, it was cold and beginning to snow when I set out from Great Lakes, Illinois, at 6 a.m. to get home to my two boys on Long Island. My sons, Tommy and Bobby, were in a foster home in Levittown because my wife had left us. I was in the Navy and hadn’t enough money to fly home.
I always kept my promise to my boys and didn’t want to disappoint them. Roger, a buddy, had a car and could get me as far as Ohio. I could get a Greyhound bus there, which cost less. The roads were starting to get icy. Suddenly, Roger’s car skidded and hit the back of a truck. We were lucky, though, and escaped unhurt. Now, I had to hitchhike.
As I was hitchhiking, I recalled a poem by Robert Frost that went, in part, as follows: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep.” I was 50 miles from Indianapolis. Seeing me in my dress blues, a man who said he never picked up hitchhikers gave me a ride because it was Christmas time. He dropped me off near a ramp that went into town. Just then, another man driving a snowplow saw me and gave me a ride into the main part of town in Indianapolis. I was walking in snow about a half-foot deep when a young couple picked me up and drove me to the bus station.
The station was crammed with homebound soldiers and sailors. I struck up a conversation with a young woman who was trying to get home to New York City to her daughter. We found out that Greyhound was giving couples first priority, so we presented ourselves as a pair and got a bus sooner. I finally got to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan at 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve. I then got on an F train and then a bus, which took me to Queens Village, where I was greeted heartily by my father-in-law, Charlie, and mother-in law, Barbara.
We had breakfast and set out to pick up the boys in Levittown. When we got there, Tommy , 4, saw me first and yelled out to Bobby, 3, that “new daddy” was here. They called me that to distinguish me from their foster parents. We got back to the Queens Village house and, that night, celebrated Christmas.
My long journey was well worth it. I hope and pray that the many who are serving our country today can make it home as safely as I did so long ago. Families are what the holidays are all about. But more importantly, it truly means a lot to our military men and women during the holidays. Let me also say, God bless America, and God bless those who are serving our country in faraway lands so well, protecting what we all hold most dear: our freedom.
Frederick R. Bedell Jr.,
Glen Oaks Village