My Friend Gave up His Life
A Life Given
Lawrence was my friend. We had been buddies since the sixth grade when we first met on the ball field. He was the first batter that I accidentally struck while I was a pitcher. I apologized and tried to make amends. Soon we were good friends. One of my special memories about sixth grade and Lawrence was the day we all went on a school outing at one of our teacher's farms. She had been kind enough to allow the two sixth grade classes to be brought out for a day of picnicking and fun playing in a little creek. Mothers had come along to help watch the kids and we were all set to have a nice outing. One thing the generous teacher stressed was that we were not to worry, because there were no poisonous snakes on the property and her husband had verified that. Of course that was the first issue we boys were going to address. We wasted no time in lifting every rock and rolling over all boulders to try to find a snake. Lawrence and I were in the lead, and as I lifted a big rock, Lawrence yelled that there was a big snake under neath. Word reached other boys and soon a dozen excited boys gathered around the rock and began to grab the snake.
One of the more brave of the bunch grabbed the colorful snake behind the head and we all watched it wrap all around his skinny arm. We all ceremoniously marched up to our teacher, who was horrified, and showed our newly found prize. Her husband saw the commotion and shouted that we needed to get rid of that snake because it was a poisonous ground rattler. We were all elated that we had proven our teacher to be wrong. Later we found out that the snake was very poisonous and was actually a Coral Snake. We escaped getting into very serious trouble because there were so many little rascals to deal with all at once. The rest of our outing was much more subdued because we were told that we could have been killed by he venomous reptile.
Lawrence and I played on the same football teams and when I was selected as team captain in eighth grade, I withdrew my nomination and suggested that Lawrence be a captain instead. He was forever grateful to me for this. Lawrence made a great team captain and this seemed to build his self confidence immensely. We continued to play baseball and football and be teammates for two more years, until I experienced an awful debilitating spinal injury in tenth grade. I had made a reputation for myself as being a good halfback and had a large following among the other students as well as the coaches in our school back then. When I had become damaged goods I immediately fell out of favor with everyone at school and seemed to have no more friends. Lawrence was a true friend and stuck with me through graduation, despite my seeming to have a nervous breakdown. He was always encouraging to me and tried to help me overcome my problems at school as much as he could.
He worked at a gas station after school and I found work in a local grocery store. I often saw Lawrence as I went on errands from the store. He was always hard at work on his job, but took time to throw up a hand when I passed by. When we graduated we both wanted to go to art school, so we planned a trip to check out a school in Florida. We drove his brother's Oldsmobile more than 1,000 miles that weekend in order to get to the school and back. It had seemed to be just what we both were looking for in an art school. The cost was significant and both of us were scratching our heads about financing. Before the graduation night we had a school gathering at a local church and I had a chance to help my friend Lawrence out. A local ladies club had offered a significant amount of money for the best letter telling how we would use the money. I wrote a letter about Lawrence and how hard he worked at that gas station in order to help his family and get needed school money. My letter was selected and the announcement was made at the school gathering by our principal. Although I was shy and embarrassed that my name was mentioned, I was very proud that my friend would receive this money to help with his schooling.
After graduation I was able to get help in attending the art school for awhile. Lawrence had chosen a junior college and was doing well. Later I came home and began to attend the same junior college. We could still take some art courses at this school as well. We all rode on a bus more than forty miles one way each day. The trip was often long and hot but the school was a great help in providing us a good way in planning for our futures. Lawrence dropped out for a while and then one day as we were all riding to school, he told of how Uncle Sam had sent him a letter to be drafted into the army. The next thing we knew, Lawrence was off to boot camp and we did not here about him for a few months. One day as we were preparing to make our road trip, a friend told of how he had learned that Lawrence was killed and how he sacrificed his life for his platoon. We were all stunned and greatly saddened. I never did really get over the loss of my friend. Even though I continued to go on to school, It was hard because we never could forget about Lawrence and our friendship that we had.
I felt a lot of guilt and decided to join the service myself. I had put my schooling on hold. The recruiters turned me down after I was bused to the center and I was sent unceremoniously home with the order that I go back to school. I followed orders. The long scar on my spine had spooked the doctors and they refused to allow me into the service. Upon returning, I continued with my schooling and completed the associate degree. I decided to major in art education and went to a four year school. After much struggling, I manage to graduate and was given my first school in which to teach. I never forgot about how Lawrence and I wanted to major in art and I was determined not to let him down, in memory at least. Later after working with disabled kids in some of my classes, I decided to change my major and got a degree in Special Education. A lot of the kids that I helped over the years reminded me of Lawrence and my struggles in education and how helping kids in need was a worthy and life changing undertaking.I was able to use art in working with my kids and made a lot of headway then in helping kids with special needs become more well adjusted in school. We should appreciate our friends and treasure them, because you never know when they may be gone and we may never see them again.
My friend gave his life for his men and country in those rice paddies of Asia. I will never forget his sacrifice and hope with all my heart that I would have made Lawrence proud of me and what I had accomplished. I spent more than two decades in education and I used my art ability to inspire my kids in special needs. Thank you for everything, Lawrence.