All of us who have served on active duty have from timne to time crossed paths with someone with whom they once served. Such is my case in point. I was attending activities in Washington DC during Police Memorial Week, 1981. More precisely I was seated at the bar in the social room of FOP Lodge #1 when I overhears a portion of a conversation taking place amoung a group of out of town police officers. One voice in the groupo was disctintively familiar. I hadn't hrad that voice in 15 years. I turned towards the group and asked in a raised voice if anyone in the room knew BAD ASS SERGEANT HEATON? One of the officcers turned around almost with tears in his eyes and said he hadn't heard that name in many years. There he stood, Sergeant James Heaton (BASH) former NCOIC of the Army MP Detachment out of Bitburg Air Base, Germany. Known as the Sheriff of Kusel County and the Only Law west of the Mosel River. We spent that evening and the next day catching up promising to keep in touch. We didn't. Then one Memorial Day about ten years ago I got a phone call from none other than Jim Heaton. He found me through AKO, Army Knowledge On line. He was retired from the Massalon Police Dept and now living in Colorado. We talked awhile and said good bye. Jim called me on every Memorial Day and Veterans day thereafter for several years. Then the calls stopped. I was worried and was reconnected with him through his sister who read my postin on line looking for Jim. Jim had moved to Brewster, Ohio. His health was failing. I got his number and c alled him. Once again we talked about old times and families. He sponds much of his time now in a hospital bed set up in his living room. He sold his Harley. Then this past Memorial Day Jum called on cue. This call was different as Jim didn't speak for several long seconds after I answered the phone. Then I hear, " IT AIN'T ABOUT MATTRESSES". I knew immediately Jim had made a profound statement. I gave the silence a few more seconf\ds then asked Jim if he was still there. "It's those damn TV commercials and newspapers ads for the Great Memorial Day or eterans Day Mattress Sale. I'm sick of them. What's wrong with those people? They have 360 days a year to advertise their mattress sale. They need to let Memorial Day and Vetereans Day alone. Thos two days have nothing to do with mattresses. Those two days are set aside to remember and honor those men and women who have served this country's armed forces. Some paying the supreme sacrifice with their very lives; others torn, maimed and dismembered. Its a day to recognize and honor those who continue to serve." We talked another 30 minutes or so. I could tell Jim was getting tired and needed to rest. I told Jim I'd be waiting for his call in November. I didn't go to the local Memorial Day Service that day. Instead I stayed home to reflect on those with whom I had served so many years ago. I gave thanks to God that there were still men and women on active duty as committed to this country's freedom as Sergeant James Heaton because IT'S NOT ABOUT MATTRESSES.
I'd like to add this note. EVERY day is veterans day. Because they are4 veterans 365 days a year. Whenever I see an older gentleman wearing a baseball cap with the words Veteran WWII/Korea/Vietnam or displays the silloette and hull number of a navy ship, I always try to take a few moments to take his hand and thank him for his service. You should too. ..yhs.