Today was amazing. We again visited a VA Hospital (Robley Rex) to interact with patients and staff. Dad and I chatted with several patients waiting for or just completing appointments. We also chatted with the girlfriend of one hero in the surgical waiting room while her beau was undergoing a procedure. The staff and ambulatory patients lined the streets like it was a ticker-tape parade. While we’ve had big turn outs in places, this rated among the most attended. It was amazing.
At our morning briefing we were told of a gentleman who volunteers at Robley Rex VA Hospital. He is the coordinator for all volunteers there. Billy is a prominent fixture at a popcorn machine in the West Lobby, where he greets patients and family members with his overwhelmingly kind spirit and gentle heart. We were told at our mass morning briefing that we needed to be sure to meet him. Our Platoon Leader, elaborated in our smaller group safety briefing on “Popcorn Billy’s” story. Billy and his twin brother Bobby were sent to Vietnam together. They served in the same unit and on one fateful day in January of 1968, Bobby was killed and Billy was wounded. This changed Billy forever. I don’t know what kind of man Billy was before he lost his brother, but I love the man I met today. God’s light just shines from him. He’s gentle loving and full of life. While we were talking he noticed the Cross patch on my vest and asked if I am a Chaplain. My answer
was “not officially” which garnered a huge smile. He pointed to a Cross pin on his lapel and told me that Jesus is his everything. Yup, God is so bright in this man, the leadership of a group of 400 or so bikers made sure to tell us all to go meet him. What a witness this man has. I told Billy of our mission to carry the flag of Gunney Shirey to The Wall and about how Gunney loved and served Veterans. Upon hearing this, Billy turned to a nearby table where he had laid down a small US Flag he’d been handed for waiving as we arrived. He asked if we’d also take that flag to The Wall in honor of his kinship with Gunney. What a huge honor to be asked to do this! I asked if we could pray over him before we left. It was brief, but a great time where I could feel Holy Spirit in agreement with my prayer for Billy to be a light in a dark place, for provision, and for energy to complete his calling. But, wait! There’s more.
Our Platoon Leader, Tanker and his wife have developed a relationship with Billy over the years, which has resulted in a tradition of Billy, annually, handing them a photo of his brother Bobby and a bag of popcorn to take to The Wall for him. I didn’t know it but Tanker was watching our interaction with Billy. Upon returning to our bikes to prepare for departure, Tanker asked me to complete the mission of carrying Bobby’s picture to The Wall. Such favor, such honor. It’s overwhelming me as I type.. God is so good.
After our visit to Robley Rex VAMC, we traveled to the Kentucky State Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I can’t do this place justice, you’ll have to Google it. The memorial is a sundial that someone has painstakingly completed math, angles, and a bunch of other amazing mumbo jumbo to align just right so that it casts a shadow over the engraved name (see image above) of each of Kentucky’s Vietnam heroes on the anniversary of their death. It’s absolutely astounding to see. Dad and I carried Bobby’s picture and the little flag up to the memorial, found his engraving and took a picture. We’ll do so again at The Wall, and then leave the two articles there. The picture, will likely have popcorn in it as well. Tanker gave that special bag of popcorn to one of our other riders to carry.
The day ended with us arriving in Hurricane, WV to an overflight of the freeway by a Huey helicopter. What an amazing sight. Too bad I was riding the bike, video of that would’ve been spectacular. I hope Jean took a photo or video of it.