Watching the episode of Girlfriends where Joan Clayton breaks down because her fiance’ has been sent to war made me feel a little guilty. I thought I didn’t know any fighting men or women, couldn’t relate to what it must be like to wait and hope that your loved one returns intact.
Not too long ago, a very good friend I’d lost track of for a decade found his way back to me – from Kuwait. He’s a fellow ATLien who is far far away from home. Below is an edited transcript of his Old School Atlanta Memories (O.S.A.M.) interview:
“A” Soldier: Hey Ma.
Ms. Auburn: Hey baby. How you feelin’?
“A” Soldier: Great! Just got back from the gym. I go at 0300 in the morning. It’s been a sandstorm over here for the last two days.
Ms. Auburn: Tornado warnings in downtown Atlanta today. They still ain’t finished replacing windows from the last one that went down Peachtree.
Ok, let’s knock some of this out. What would you say influenced you the most in your Atlanta upbringing to enter the military? I mean, you’d had a little college under your belt, probably could have followed your father into law enforcement easily. What about the values you learned on ATL streets helped you to choose a career in the military?
“A” Soldier: Honesty among thieves.
Ms. Auburn: I can’t say that!!!!!!!:-)
“A” Soldier: Damn, I was about to talk about the dope man.
Ms. Auburn: Ok……….if you insist.
“A” Soldier: Nah. I would have to say respect, respect that was taught in the home, at school, on the football field, at hangouts. Being a part of the best ROTC department in the city always meant something.
Ms. Auburn: Best as in ranking on some type of list or best as in ya’ll had the big head?
“A” Soldier: See, you have to understand, I joined the army because of my impatience.
Ms. Auburn: Impatience?
“A” Soldier: I wanted results then. I was two years into school. I had a kid on the way. I was mad at my folks, tired of lying, so I ran. I ran away to really calm down to find out just who the hell I was.
Ms. Auburn: So, don’t you think it’s interesting that it sounds like it’s the same kind of impatience that sends other bois into the street to sell drugs? They don’t want to wait (and work) on the fame or build a life; they want it now. But for you, it sent you into an honorable career. That’s because of your home?
“A” Soldier: Yeah, I guess you could say it was because of home.
Ms. Auburn: 1.) Best Atlanta memory as a child; 2.) Best Atlanta memory as a teen; and 3.)Thing you most miss about Atlanta.
“A” Soldier: Just learning the culture of the city. My folks always took me to Hawks, Braves, Falcons games. To The King Center, the (Memorial) Arts Center. They made me realize what was around me.
Best memory as a teen was marching in Forsyth County next to my dad in ’87. Powerful! Nothing compared to that, to see men from all over the city with their son’s, some I knew, a lot I did not, come together was an amazing experience. I had never seen racism, but to do that with REAL KKK and robes and the nigger chants will stay with me forever. Think about it; now everbody wanna be there. Everybody wanna live in Stone Mountain, Alpharetta. You know your **expletive removed** could not go to Stone Mountain and live (back then).
That is what the March on Forsyth was about. An architect moved there for the City of Cumming/Forsyth Co. He was black. They burned a cross in his yard and rocked and egged his cars. Nigga go home! The next week Hosea Williams took 3 bus loads up there and they threw rocks at them, hitting and injuring some. It was 20 thousand that marched two weeks later. That is history; f*** break dancin’!
The thing I miss most is the family. Atlanta was a family. Everybody knew everybody and everybody’s parents knew each other. You opened up a Jet and Ralph Abernathy was in it. Went to a party that afternoon and Kwame (Abernathy) was there. Julian Bond ran the snack stand for the park baseball games. Andy Young was on the PTA at (name of school removed). These are public icons that were there for you to touch and feel. That is why real folks from The A are not star struck. We have been around that all of our lives. We all did the same things, supported one another. Hell, our parents were trend setters. They changed the whole city which changed America.
Ms. Auburn: Do you think some sense of responsibilty to those men is what helped you choose right over wrong?
“A” Soldier: I did not know right from wrong. I just knew the example I saw was not only done at my home, it was done at homes across the city. There was not that much separation of class.
Ms. Auburn: When you come home, home to Atlanta home, what’s the first thing you want to do and the first place you want to go?
“A” Soldier: To my mom and dads, to the drug store to get some Tums and to the Krystals (fast food) and get me 3 double cheese Krystals.
Ms. Auburn: One word answer……..Back in the day in the A, Atlanta was…………?
“A” Soldier: ALRIGHT!!!
Please pray for the safe return of “A” Soldier, our soldier. Pray that he comes home soon to his lovely wife, teenage daughter and to the rest of us who will always consider him family – Straight From The A.