George Worthy
George Worthy

So I’m sitting in my favorite chair lacing up my tennis shoes when the phone rings. I’m only a little concerned because Lorraine pays all the bills and she has not advised me that we are in trouble. I look at the phone only to see that there is not any name associated with this phone call. Normally, I just put the phone down if I don’t recognize the number. 

In addition to there not being a name to titillate my curiosity, it is too early to be calling me, as I don’t like early phone calls because there has never been a good thing to come out of an early phone call. As a matter of fact, this was no exception.

I say, “Hello,” and my sister-in-law spoke low to me. “Roger is gone,” she says through a choking sound that I recognize as a sob. “Wait! What?” I blurted out. Roger is my brother just a couple of years older than me. My two other brothers, one older and one younger, have already gone on to meet their maker. I was not expecting any bad news. I had called Roger just last night. He would never make an excuse about how much pain he was in.

I wasn’t prepared to hear her statement. Roger would never make a joke out of losing someone. I took a deep breath and gave some thought as to what I was going to say when Jackie came back to the phone and said, “He was in so much pain, Woody (that’s my nickname). He had been under the knife four times in the last month, and the pain was so bad that he said he just didn’t want to keep going.”

I knew he was poorly, as we had spoken many times in the past couple of months. I was not informed just how bad it was because he would never admit how bad the pain was. I think he was afraid I wouldn’t believe him and the temptation was there. Roger was the favorite brother. He joined the U.S. Marines a couple of years after our oldest brother did. They both did well in the service. Neither had been in trouble in the service to our country. 

Roger was the brother that told me I wasn’t going to go into the Marines, which I had thought was a family tradition. “No, you are going into the Army,” he had said. You make more money by becoming a paratrooper. “They get an extra $50 a month as long as you make all three jumps you are supposed to within the next three months.”

Just for the fun of it, I will explain that paratroopers must jump once every three months. The Army is pretty cool about making sure you get those jumps in on time. I didn’t know it then, but that was the best thing that ever had happened to me up until that point in my life. So many wonderful things followed my graduation from Jump School.

I got assigned to Headquarters Company of the First of the 187 Battle group of the 82nd Airborne Division. This unit was the cream of the 82nd. There was a battery of tests given when you get to the intake station in Fresno. I passed the entire test with high enough scores that I passed my high school equivalent. That may not impress you, but to a young man who didn’t do so well in high school, it was a great feeling to know that I would be going to what they call a STRAC Unit. We had to be ready to deploy in 30 minutes no matter where we were when the balloon went up.

I’m telling you these things because Roger was my sounding board. Every time I got a promotion or new assignment, Roger was the guy I would call. He always advised me to do the right thing. I give him all the credit for my success in the Army. Next to marrying Lorraine, going into the military was the best thing I ever did. Taking advice from Roger sits up almost as high.

My oldest brother was six years older than me and we had grown apart after I joined the Army. He was a generation older than me and felt he had all the answers. Roger was almost my age and always gave me advice that assisted me as I rose to more responsibility. He even gave me good advice about marriage, and since he thought Lorraine was a perfect match for me, I thought he was pretty smart.

I had a younger brother who got involved with the scourge of the world, drugs. He had no one to give him advice and he probably wouldn’t have followed any given to him by his older brothers. He was, like so many of the young men of his age, addicted to drugs and it led him down the rabbit hole of life. I miss him, but I was traveling around the world when he was growing up. He contracted cancer of the mouth and eventually moved up to Idaho to be closer to Roger. He passed a couple of years ago.

So, out of the four boys, I am the sole survivor. I give credit to the military and to the love of my life, Lorraine. I tried all my life to make my dad proud of me, and when he left us I thought I had messed up somehow. I found out later, after he had passed, that he had written my mom a letter where he said that I was his favorite. I never knew that, and to be honest if he had said so, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I hold it close and it gives me strength.

So here’s to my big brother, William Roger Worthy. I will always remember our crazy times, your guidance and inspiration. Give Mom a big kiss for me and tell everyone I love them.

God Bless.

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Gonzales columnist George Worthy may be reached at [email protected].


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