I could die really cool when I was a kid.
I’d pretend that I was a soldier on a mission with a rifle in my hands as I made my way through enemy territory. I’d carry a tree limb most of the time and walk through pathways in a jungle we called Fairmount Park.
I’d shoot and kill a lot of the bad guys but then get shot myself.
Whereupon, I’d grab that part of my body that was hit and I’d fall to the ground. Closing my eyes, I’d pass on. . .
What an imagination. It was as much fun dying as it was creating my living in a dream world brought to me by television and the movies. I’d become John Wayne rushing up the hills at Iwo Jima or Audie Murphy, the real life war hero that got the Congressional Medal of Honor before he appeared on the silver screen.
I made a resolution way back then to become a Marine and fight for my country when I got older. I wouldn’t practice dying but I would imagine what it was like to fight the good fight.
It was something I believe that many guys felt when they were young. How could you not want to be like Fess Parker swinging his rifle – nicknamed “Old Betsy” – at the enemy soldiers trying to take him down on the steps of the old Spanish mission called the Alamo. Or to fight from a bed like Walt Disney portrayed Jim Bowie did as the “invaders” rushed into his room and he not only shot ‘em, but threw his Bowie knife at one of them.
I lost that dream somewhere along the way to my teenage years. Girls took over and so did slow dancing and singing Doo Wop harmony songs on the street corners of Philadelphia.
I never joined the Marines, but I figured I fulfilled my destiny when being drafted in the army and going to lead a bunch of men – many of them still in their late teens – in a place called Vietnam.
I never got shot and didn’t have to practice dying there. Now all that’s left is recalling those times that most kids would never dream about if they had experienced war in the first place.