"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice


An Airman started his day by unloading a plane at Dover Air Force Base. It had just arrived from Vietnam and was filled with body bags. That was the worst duty at Dover in those days, but it was nothing compared to the duty of the dead American soldiers returning from halfway around the world.

The Airman felt like getting drunk when he finished with the bodies so he headed for a bar in town. He never considered the late-night walk back to the base while he was drinking and trying to forget.

He was about halfway back and starting to sober up when a car stopped and offered a ride. The driver took the Airman to a diner and bought him an early breakfast before dropping him off at the base.

That Airman was my father. He never could remember the name of the guy who gave him a ride and a meal on that long-ago night, but he never forgot what the man did.

My father never passed anyone in the military without at least shaking their hand and thanking them. He gave rides and bought meals, but never felt like it was enough.

He died nearly 10 years ago, but he’ll always be with me. I never pass anyone in uniform without extending a hand. It is my honor and the honor of my father.

I meet so many soldiers and see his face in all of them. I only hope they never come home through Dover Air Force Base.

I have included a couple of stories about soldiers at Yankee Stadium that were originally published on Yankees For Justice. These are just two of several million people that we owe everything – or at least a handshake and a thank you – on this Veterans’ Day and every day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Soldier’s Story

Brian peered over the crowd at the players’ gate outside Yankee Stadium last night. He wore standard-issue military fatigues and clenched a baseball in his left hand.

“Thanks,” I said offering my hand.

Brian shook and smiled.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Oklahoma City,” Brian said. “I come from a family of Yankees fans that goes back to Mickey Mantle and Bobby Murcer, but this is my first time here. It’s the first time anyone in my family has been to Yankee Stadium.

“I’m stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany,” he continued. “I’m on my way home for a couple of weeks before I have to head back to Iraq. I just had to stop and see a game. I want to get this ball signed for my father. He’d really like that.”

“You can move to the other side of the fence,” I offered. “The players always sign for soldiers, especially Johnny Damon.”

“How do I get over there?” Brian asked.

We walked toward East 157th Street along Ruppert Avenue and appealed to the good nature of the police.

The cops nodded Brian through.

“Thanks,” he said.

Then he turned and waved at me.

“Thank you for helping me out.”

No, Brian. Thank you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Off The Island

Justin arrived at Yankee Stadium in full uniform. He walked proudly through the tunnel and got his first look at the field.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m finally here.”

His father placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You earned it,” he said.

Justin is a week off of Parris Island. He is a United States Marine and proud of it. His father is proud, too.

“I bought these tickets awhile ago,” his father said. “I surprised him when he got home from basic training.

“He’s a good kid,” his father continued. “He always tries to do what’s right. I didn’t want him to join, but there was no stopping him. He used to look at my Marine photos when he was little and that’s probably where it started.”

Justin doesn’t know where he’s going next. He might be headed to Iraq or maybe Afghanistan.

“But I’m here tonight,” he said. “Nothing else matters right now.”

Justin put an arm around his father.

“Thanks, Dad.”

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1 Joe L.   ~  Nov 11, 2008 11:03 am

That was a tremendous tribute to Vets. Great writing from the heart.

2 michael o. allen   ~  Nov 11, 2008 11:19 am

Todd, this is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who serve. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

3 Bama Yankee   ~  Nov 11, 2008 11:32 am

Nice job, Todd. Thanks for posting those stories.
Also, I'd like to thank all those who have served our country.

4 Todd Drew   ~  Nov 11, 2008 11:47 am

I’m sure the veterans appreciate your kind words Joe. L., Michael and Bama Yankee. We owe them all the support we can give them. Thanks for weighing in.

5 thelarmis   ~  Nov 11, 2008 2:42 pm

todd: you honored your father - as well as other veterans and current/future soldiers - very well here with this post! i'm sure your father is very proud of you. thanks for your words!

6 Todd Drew   ~  Nov 11, 2008 3:06 pm

Thanks. I hope your grandfather is doing well.

7 ms october   ~  Nov 11, 2008 3:06 pm

nice piece todd.
you are honoring your father wonderfully.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 11, 2008 4:12 pm

I read this, especially the last part, and I picture a silhouette of a man and a boy, hand-in-hand, exiting a tunnel at the Stadium onto the field as the sun is setting. Then I get something in my eye. Marvelous piece, Todd, for real...

9 Todd Drew   ~  Nov 11, 2008 4:36 pm

Thanks, Chyll Will. There are two things that will always stick with me about Justin. I’m not a kid anymore so everyone is starting to look younger, but Justin looked very young. If he had been wearing a Derek Jeter T-shirt, jeans and sneakers I would have placed him in his mid-teens. The other thing is that he was in full Marine dress blues and took one of his white gloves off to shake my hand. I just hope he’s doing okay. I hope they are all doing okay.

10 upper deck view   ~  Nov 11, 2008 6:07 pm

Todd - your father would be very proud and not just of this story but of all the ones I have read.

11 Diane Firstman   ~  Nov 11, 2008 7:30 pm

Your father raised you right, Todd.

A very touching and classy post.

12 thelarmis   ~  Nov 12, 2008 1:14 am

[6] thanks, todd - you are a good man!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver