Big John & Tintin - 1980
My last year in the army was a joyous one for many reasons -- the biggest being the count down to getting out. I would spend hours in the main library on post going through issues of Advertising Age and pondering a civilian career as an ad man (or better, photographer) on Madison Avenue. I told my army superiors that I was going to college, ROTC and would be back with a commission in four years. I half believed it myself.
My immediate superior was a master sergeant (P) who had been a Golden Knight and a Green Beret in Vietnam. Big John was also a very tall Canadian. He invited me to his home to meet his wife and his children and we all became good friends. A few years earlier I had gone through Canadian jump school and was forever spoiled by the people. Their good humor, kindness, and love of beer, cigarettes and SCTV bonded me to the Great White North. For years afterward, I would search out Labatt's Blue and Export A's buying great quantities of both whenever I could find them.
A brigade or a battalion, I can't remember which, of the Canadian Army came to Bragg and after a joint exercise a hockey game was held at the Cleland ice rink between the Canadians and the US Army. Something that still goes on to this day as seen here. Big John was a referee and I attended the game with some Canadians I had gone through jump school with back in Edmonton.
Standing and cheering on the Canadian side in a US Army uniform was interesting. Lots of back slapping from the Canadians. Lots of US soldiers shouting at me from across the ice, "Fucking traitor!" I'm sketchy about what happened after the game.
But with CinemaScope clarity I remember the Canadians winning and Big John skating over. He stopped in front of me kicking up some ice from his skates and I saw the sweat pouring down his face. "Here," he held his hand over the barrier and smiled at me, "...take this." and he dropped the game puck in my hand.
It meant everything to me then and even more today. Sadly, the puck is long gone for reasons I'll never forget but unimportant today because I have that memory. Last night I smiled as the Canadians scored the winning goal and in my mind I held a game puck one more time.