[July 19, 2022] Ranger Bob had been in the business all his life. When I met him, he was older than dirt, pleasant in person, but rugged looking from working all his life outdoors. He was all about running his garbage collection business and providing for his family. He was to help me re-learn an old lesson from my childhood; remember to respect others.
The modern name for his job is sanitation worker, but to Bob, what he did was pick up garbage. He’d take anything, and I mean anything (there might have been some marginally legal trash picked up). Those days are gone, and so is Bob. His grandson owns the company now; it’s different.
Ranger Bob (I have no idea where “Ranger” came from, and I didn’t ask) got things done. Bob kept his distance like he was not as good as the rest of us. He acted like we (his customers) were somehow better than him. Okay, his call.
His son, that worked with him, let slip one day that it was Bob’s birthday. I went out to a small store just off the military post where I worked and purchased one of those new insulated steel mugs that keep your coffee hot, wrapped it in a brown paper bag, and got it ready to give to him later that day when he would be coming by my office on Ft. Campbell. It was no big deal, a small gift to say thanks; I used to do that frequently for those I knew.
I was shocked when Bob came into my office with tears in his eyes and with his adult son in tow. No one, other than his family, had ever recognized his birthday. We talked for a few minutes, and he left. Bob passed away a few weeks later from undiagnosed cancer. I attended his funeral (as we should all do) and met his large, energetic family. They had organized a big party in Ranger Bob’s memory.
Nothing was spared for Bob’s shindig, and I was an honored guest. Why? Because I did something small (but big) for Bob. I showed him respect. You just never know.
I can still picture Bob in my mind and that he was such a hardworking man who also put a lot of effort into raising his family. This is the kind of person I like to be around. No non-sense, easygoing, helpful, and someone that would do anything for you. These are rare men. These are the unsung heroes of my generation. Learn to respect them.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).