One of the guys took me to the side and said, "That guy got the Medal of Honor.". "Oh, really?", I thought. I remember looking at the average build kind man and could not vision him storming a pill box taking out a group of Germans single handed. That 'John Wayne' vision was what I thought of that medal.
I think it made me step back a bit. I probably skirted their table a bit...feeling somewhat unworthy, I guess. But, they both always had a smile on their faces and sought me out with a bright hello. 'Love' seemed to radiate from them and soon I was back with my cup, chatting with them before one of the meetings.
They didn't live in a big house up on the hill. They had a small mobile home in one of the local lots. Humble digs for a humble couple. It was the early days of my coming back out as a veteran so their warmth and acceptance encouraged me.
He had a birthday and a local retired officer made a huge deal of it with a big cake. Bob just shrugged and went along with the fan fare. I could see that he appreciated the gesture but certainly did not feed off of it. 'Just another day', I believe he said.
The more that I got to know them, the more I loved being around them. Honestly, I don't recall an angry word coming from either and that is how I wish to remember them.....Loving.
In those early days, it was a rarity when Bea was not by his side. I can only remember a very few like the time that he wanted to honor another close friend of mine, Bob Shotwell with a rock from Normandy beach. We sat quietly at one of the LaPine meetings, him not wanting his stature to be greater than the honor that he wanted to bestow.
The two Bob's had a few things in common beside the war. In fact, both of them had started up departments at our local college, COCC. Bob Shotwell starting the Journalism dept and Bob Maxwell the Automotive.
I recall a day that Bob called me up and asked to have a cup of coffee. I never turned down that opportunity. Bob and I sat in a booth at Jake's and he asked me if I had any ideas for fund raisers. He was trying to raise money for Honor Flights where they were sending WW2 veterans to Washington DC.
We threw back and forth a few ideas, when I looked over at the table next to us to find another friend, Don Devore, who owns a business up on the Sandy river and makes our T shirts and sweatshirts at Jake's. I invited Don over to the table and in the conversation, one of us came up with the idea of coats. It was something that most could afford and that could be popular if well received. Don agreed to make the coats at his cost to help in the fund raising.
In a matter of minutes, the three of us had designed a jacket. On the front would be the person's name and his service. On the back, we would have "Band of Brothers, Central Oregon. We all agreed that the back would look better with a logo of sorts. About that time, a veteran walked in and on the back of his vest, he had a patch. In the center of the patch was an Eagle. "What of that?", I asked. We found a picture of the eagle online and with that, the logo of the Band of Brothers was created. In fact, the jacket that wear on a normal basis was the prototype for the jacket that became a uniform and a way to bring all of the now various groups together.
Then, a few years back, he lost his partner. I was in Portland at the time, watching a Lacrosse game that my grandson was playing in. Friends kept me appraised of things as we all began to pray for Bea and him. By the time that I got back to Bend, she was gone. We had a huge service at Eastmont Church with a procession that led to the small cemetery close to Terrebonne. Police from four different agencies blocked intersections so that we could get to the graveside together. Our area had not seen anything like this. A testament to how much the couple meant to all.
Bob began to falter in his health and many of us felt that he would probably follow close behind as we knew how much he loved Bea. But God had other plans.