Several Airmen were assigned to a communication class designed teach us how to process our feelings as we continued in our careers. One of the main assignments the Chaplain had us complete was righting a brief statement titled, “Who I am.” It was a free-form assignment as long as we developed 10 sentences about how we saw ourselves. I chose to create a free-verse poem:
I am my father’s son,
I am my mother’s child.
Unnoticed by some,
Seen by many.
Like a curving path,
Straight as an arrow.
The same as everyone,
A little different.
After being asked to get-up and read it aloud, a guy came up to me and asked, “Are you Tommy Darby, the sprinter?”
I didn’t recognize him immediately. He, like me was shaved bald and wearing the same green-weenie uniform as everyone else. As soon as I answered that I was, he smiled and introduced himself.
It was Jerry Ballard. He and I went to Del Norte High together. We had even been team members on the cross country team. We made plans to get a beer on our next weekend-liberty. But it never happened as we never had the same liberty schedule.
While I don’t know whatever became of Jerry, I owe him a beer for making this kid feel like he wasn’t all that far from home.