The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Brother, Dave

My younger brother Dave volunteered for military service in the mid '60s, not exactly a popular action among people his age at that time. He did a year in Vietnam and then re-upped for another year. He was in the U. S. Army corps of engineers, and spent most of his time operating a big Caterpillar D9 clearing jungle. It was very dangerous duty.

Like many vets, he doesn't talk about that time very much at all. And, like a lot of the returning vets from that war, he had some trouble adjusting to life back home and to some people who did not value his service. He straightened out after a year, but still has dreams and calls out in his sleep. I've heard him call out like that. The desperate urgency in his voice sends chills down your spine.

He's "retired" now from the USPS--I put that in quotation marks because he went right back to work and developed a successful landscape business. He's the hardest working person I know. He will give you the shirt off his back. If you're his friend (or his brother) and you need help, you can count on him.

When Katrina hit the Gulf coast, lots of people sent money and others did a lot of talking about what needed to be done. Dave took off work, loaded his tractor, chain saw, and other tools in his trailer and went right down there. He spent a over week in a little town in Southern Mississippi, sawing trees, moving brush, etc., doing what had to be done.

Dave's the only person I know who's come close to living up to all the tenets of the Cowboy Ethic. (That could be because I spent my career in academics, a profession not known for its high moral values, but the truth is, Dave's value system is pretty rare in any kind of work environment.) If you're not familiar with what the Cowboy Ethic entails, here's Jim Owen's "distillation of the timeless, universal cowboy values that are still relevant to our lives today." They're taken from his book Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.
1. Live each day with courage.
2. Take pride in your work.
3. Always finish what you start.
4. Do what has to be done.
5. Be tough but fair.
6. When you make a promise, keep it.
7. Ride for the brand.
8. Talk less and say more.
9. Remember that some things aren't for sale.
10.Know where to draw the line.
I love my brother. I'm proud of his military service and all his other accomplishments. And I'm glad he made it back from the war. I'm glad his name isn't on that famous Wall. It's a beautiful wall, and a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in that conflict. But I'd rather have Dave's name etched right where it is--in the hearts of his family and friends.


  1. Thanks for sharing that, Dan. Dave sounds like a helluva a good guy.

  2. What a great tribute to your brother, all of us need to value our siblings more.

  3. Dan, I read this right after you posted it, and really didn't know what to say. I've known men like your brother. Wish I was more like them.

    Really, I do.

    I think I'm pretty good on 9 of the 10 rules. But, #8 is my downfall. Always. Dangit, I've been working on that one for years and years, but I NEVER seem to be able to keep my trap shut. (Got it from Momma I guess)

    Honestly, this post has given me new hope that I can talk less and say more. Dan, well...long stories...I'll leave it at that.

    Gonna try to get gooder.

    And oh yeah, tell your Brother "Andy says, Welcome Home!"

  4. No doubt about it, Dave is my kinda man. First off, as a Navy Seabee who did the same kind of combat work, say "WELCOME HOME mate!" to Dave for me.

    I've not only had to get my PTSD treated over the years but eventually started treating other Vets and Cops for PTSD and CSD (Chronic Stress Disorder).

    I love that Code of Honor.

  5. Deb, Thanks for your comment. And he is...a really good guy.

    Ed, Thanks. It's taken some time for me to realize what a really decent and great guy he is. We were never antagonistic or anything, after we left home in our youth, he just had his life and I mine, and we visited mostly when got together at our parents.

    But the last few years before they died, as we took care of them, Dave and I got to know each other a lot better and re-bonded.

    Andy, Thanks for your comment. #8 is a tough one, but sometimes it can be turned around and become a virtue. I for one am glad you talk as much as you do and wish you'd do more of it on your blog. You make me and your other readers laugh. And that's a good thing.

    Cookie, Thanks, and I will definitely convey that message to my brother. I'm curious, did your work with other vets involve counseling based on your own experiences? Since Joyce is a psychologist, she has always been interested in effective techniques that are used. If you get time, send me an email on that sometime.

  6. Your brother Dave is a great guy, Dan, and this post is a great tribute. Thanks for sharing it.