I Love You, Will You Marry Me?


This article is about Bill who I met while working at the Nuclear Plant. He was to say the least a unique person. Whenever you saw him he wore clothes that showed he was a Vietnam Veteran. Both of us worked for a private contractor Bill made welds and I inspected them. For the first few months when I went to inspect one of his welds I was the only one talking. Bill never shared a word with me. Then out of the blue while standing in line to enter the nuclear plant Bill spoke one word Hi. I returned same and that was the extent of our first conversation. Over the next month the one word turned into a sentence then an actual conversation. Bill nearly as I could tell only talked to me at work. To others that required a response like one of his bosses and we had probably six, he shook his head, pointed or made one word responses, which really irritated the second in command in our company. But no words or gestures prompted Bill to respond and those trying to talk to him would walk away frequently talking to themselves.

Bill Got all the Medals But Almost Lost Himself

Bill was a true hero and a tragedy of a war this country didn’t have the will to win. Bill re opted and received all the major medals a soldier could receive while over seas fighting for his country. When the last Marines helicopter lifted off our last embassy in Vietnam Bill was waiting on the ship that transported those last persons home to America. Bill probably got spit on by someone when he first got home, but according to his Mother he never retaliated in same. He just took the abuse and walked away. Bill apparently had many issues, which were developed during his in tenure in the Marines.

Bill Didn't Share Himself Normally

He always wore the same type of clothes, which you could tell were the original uniform of a Vietnam Vet. During our friendship I never saw him wear anything else. Those who knew him always took a different path then his because his tallness and unfriendly demeanor left those that knew him with an impression that he was like a grenade ready to go off. Bill lived in his own world and seldom wondered out to share his feelings with anyone.

Then One Day We Shared Lunch

Then one day I was eating my lunch and Bill wondered by and asked if he could join me. I said of course and that’s when we started being friends and even had normal conversations like normal people. At the time I didn’t know that we were developing a friendship together. Only when he died did I truly understand what real friendship meant. For a time I hardly spoke then Bill started asking me questions and I cautiously started asking him questions to. In time throught this process I learned the horrors he experienced and the methods he developed to survive while he was there. In many ways he was like the Rambo person in the movies though his part was real. One time he told me how he and his special group would go into the jungle and hide for days at a time and never move. He said they would wait for Viet con to walk by and then they would cause them to be no more. He showed no expression on his face when telling me this story.

Bill Was My Friend

Then one day I learned the value of my friendship with Bill. One of my duties was to inspect lockers, which were used by welders and pipe fitters that were employed by the company I worked for. I generally did this distasteful job on Friday before leaving for the day. Everyone knew I did this because it was my job and they didn’t hold it against me. If I found something suspicious I was required to contact a certain person and write out an inspection report. In this one persons locker I found this special pipe-cutting tool that had been reported stolen by someone. The person that used that locker was informed of my inspection and was fired. Before he left he confronted me with two of his buddies. Before I could say anything Bill stepped in front of me and grabbed the person by the throat with one hand and told them if they ever touched me he would squeeze harder the next time. The three left and never bothered me again. That’s the power of a good friend. It was like having a big brother. It didn’t take long for the word to pass throught the plant. And the word was leave Don alone he’s my friend. I’m not sure if everyone was impressed but I sure was.

Then I Passed a Message from Maggie to Bill

Maggie was a Security Guard and frequently did security duty by walking from one check point to another and so noted problems if there were any. On one of her travels she stopped me and asked questions about Bill; eventually she got to the point of her visit she wanted to meet Bill. I was surprised by this statement from her and so noted my feelings by saying are you kidding? And then I said why? She said I like the way he dresses and He reminds me of my Father who was killed in the Cambodia. I said Bill doesn't like anyone. She said he likes you and why don't you think he wouldn't like me? I said ok Ill pass the message on to Bill. Bill said ok and now he had two friends me and her. For awhile I was kind of jealous, but that passed quickly and we all had lunches together. Then the miracle happened Maggie blurted out will you marry me? Bills eyes opened completely for the first time ever and then just left. In time he sorted it all out and said ok.

The War & Cancer Challenged Bill & Then He Ended It

Eventually the both units of the Nuclear Plant became operational and I was relieved of my job and so was Bill. We parted after having a few drinks. I told him to call if he ever needed to talk to his friend. He smiled and that was the last time I saw him or Maggie. Then two years later on New Years Eve I answered the phone and bill was on the line. We talked probably for an hour and it was great hearing from him. He said he and Maggie were living with his Mother. The next day his Mother called me and said her son committed suicide at mid night. She said he left a note and asked me to call you and say good by and thanks for being my first friend. She said he died of cancer caused by a chemical the marines used to stop the foliage from growing in the forests of Vietnam. She said they sprayed it from airplanes and sometimes it drifted over to our troops and exposed them to getting cancer. She said her son often spoke of me and said we Maggie and I were his only friends his only friends in the world. She told me with a cracking sound in her voice thank you for being my son’s friend. She hung up and I cried like a baby.

Why Blame the Soldier?

Bill was the product of a bad war and then the country he fought for killed him. To me that was a raw deal and people like Bill didn’t deserve the hollering of those who called him and his buddies baby killers. Bill and his buddies did what they were told to do and that makes them a hero to me. For those who think otherwise I say grow up and smell the roses and see life as it really is. Bill and his buddies gave you by their sacrifice the opportunity to live in peace a little longer.

Were Proud of You

For all of those person like Bill who gave their best and then were humiliated by the very people they protected; I say with every fiber of my being thank you for what you did and endured for your country. I know God has a special place prepared for you. Where people don’t spit and you wont hear the words baby killer. This place will clear your mind and bring you the peace you so bravely granted to those in America. May God Bless Bill and his buddies.

I mention this story only to make the point that love crosses all bridges of difficulty so take heart and give your heart to someone like Maggie did and say I love you and will you marry me? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Don L. Terrill

photo by kk+