Monday, May 29, 2017

A Page from the Journal of Sullivan O'Grady

Character: Sullivan O'Grady
Book: Death of a Toy Soldier
Author: Barbara Early

Photo: Public domain via Wikipedia Commons

A page from the Journal of Sullivan O'Grady...

September 4, 2016

Sy DuPont is the most difficult man I've ever worked for since I became a home health aide. He's gruff and unappreciative and a penny-pinching cheapskate. My wife has been begging me to quit. And I'm not sure why I haven't. I've certainly lasted longer than anyone else he's had in.

Sigh. I take that back. I know why I haven't quit.

It all started with the Battle of Triangle Hill. See, Sy was there. He was a young man then, back in 1952. I've seen the picture of his unit on his mantel. And every time I came to work at the house, he told me the same story. Points out the same faces of the guys who didn't make it home.

Not all vets do that--talk about their experiences so openly.

And I should know. When I came home, I rarely said anything about my service. At first I told myself that it was because I wanted to shield my family from the horrors of the battlefield. Or maybe I was a bit chicken. Telling other people made it more real. Brought back the nightmares, not that the nightmares ever truly went away.

So we played this wonderful game of pretend, as if I was away on an extended business trip, and there was nothing really to talk about.

But Sy was talking. Not sure when he started: if he could talk about his experiences when he returned home from the field--the friends he lost, the terror he experienced--or whether it took him awhile to open up. But every time he told it, he seemed just a little less burdened by it.

Of course, his family didn't seem to want to hear it anymore. I can't blame them, really. As far as stories go, these weren't pleasant. And neither was Sy. And I can't help wonder what the crusty old man would have been like if he'd never seen Triangle Hill.

But that's what I learned from Sy. And after every particular hard day at that spooky old house of his, I'd come home and hold my wife and kids close, and share just a little bit more.


Sullivan O'Grady and Sy Dupont are fictional characters, but on this Memorial Day weekend, I'd like to remember and honor those who served.

My father served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. When he came home, it was at a time where the public was often not very kind to returning vets. It took him a long time to open up and talk about his experiences. In the interim, his PTSD took a toll on him and our whole family.

Of, course, some never made it home at all.

Our freedom isn't free, so while I'm all for barbecues and long weekends, let's take some time this weekend to thank and honor our veterans.

And if you served, thank you.


  1. Thank you for your comments. My family has served in the military since before we were a country. Recently I get the impression that Memorial Day has become a day for sales of merchandise and hot dogs on the grill. And please, thank your Father for his service.

  2. I am thankful for your Father's service in Vietnam, and wish he had been treated like the hero he is when he came home. My Dad fought and was wounded in the Korean War and carried shrapnel in his leg and chest that the surgeons determined were too dangerous to remove. He did not like to talk about his service, maybe for the same reasons Sullivan O'Grady held back. One of my Dad's friends fought in World War II and was captured and spent some time in a German POW camp. Someone asked him how he escaped, and he just said, "I didn't like the food." He ended up teaching German at West Point!