A Collector Series Story
Charles W. Bird
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely accidental. This story is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced by any means without the express, written permission of the author.
Clayton Bayard, now nearing the age of 75, sat in his chair with a smile on his face. He was remembering, how he and his wife, Megan, had first encountered an abused boy and how their lives had been changed. It was January of 1983 that he had discovered Stacey hiding in a men's restroom next to the interstate highway. Next came Jake, an abuse victim they rescued from the hospital emergency ward six months later. He frowned at the thought of how their children had been so bitterly opposed, an opposition that culminated in a complete rupture of his family. Still he had no regrets, he and Megan loved those boys and were rewarded tenfold, and more, in their loyalty and love returned. Shortly after he had retired in 1997, Megan was diagnosed with cancer and died a year later, nearly crushing his soul. To occupy his time, he applied for and was granted teaching credentials and he began teaching at the State Home for Boys. This eventually led to his association with the REFUGE, an organization dedicated to salvaging abandoned youths who were living on the streets. It was because of that association that he met THE BROTHERS.
Clayton had just poured a second cup of coffee and had settled to the table to read the morning newspaper. Nothing much ever happened in the little village he lived in, but Tucson, 30 miles away, was a major city and the news was always filled with wild happenings.
The doorbell rang and he went to answer it. Paul Brogan, the pastor of the local Methodist Church was standing there, holding the hand of a ragged, very dirty boy, who appeared to be about 14 or 15 years of age.
The man said, "Clay, I found this youngster foraging in the garbage this morning and I think we need some help, he says he is a Jicarilla Apache from New Mexico."
Clayton knelt down, where he could look the boy straight in his eyes, "Son, will you let Pastor Paul and myself help you?"
The boy began to cry, "I runned away, sir, he hurted me bad."
Clay's heart went out to the boy, he wrapped his arms around him and brought him into the house. He gave some clean towels to the boy and showed him the shower.
He said, "Hand me out your clothes and I will run them through the wash." He carried the filthy clothing to the laundry, wondering if they would even survive the washing machine.
He handed Paul a cup of coffee and started putting together a breakfast that a starving teen boy would eat, toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and a large glass of milk.
They heard a noise and turned to see the boy standing in the doorway, wrapped in the large bath towel.
Clay said, "Son, would you like some breakfast while your clothes get washed?"
The boy stammered, "Yyyyy yes sir, ppp please may I?"
Clay picked the small teen up and sat him on the chair, placing the food he had prepared in front of him. The boy gobbled the food down in a flash.
Clay asked, "Would you like some more?" The boy smiled a beaming grin and he shook his head in a yes. Two more plates later, the boy pushed himself back, claiming he was full!
Knowing that the laws governing the care of Native American children differed from those concerning children of other races, he said, "Son, first, will you tell me your name?"
The boy hesitated and Clay picked him up and placed him in his lap. The boy finally said, "Artie, sir, Artie Redfeather. Don't send me back, he hurted me!" The boy began to sob uncontrollably.
Clay asked, "Who hurt you, Artie?"
He replied, "My stepfather, sir. He beat me and tossed me out."
Clay's chest cramped in agony for the boy, he said, "I have to let somebody know that you are here, but I won't let them take you away from me unless you say it is OK!"
Clay turned to Paul, "He can stay here with me. I am going to call the Welfare Officer over at the San Moreno Apache Reservation and explain the situation to them."
Paul responded, "Sounds good to me, Clay, I will check with you later."
The pastor departed and shortly after 9 AM, Clay telephoned the Tribal Officials in San Moreno. He had dealt with them before and was on a first name basis with the Child Welfare Officer, Sandy Blue Squirrel.
She told him that she would have a Tribal Elder come see the boy in a day or so. Clay had let the boy listen to everything that was said and he no longer had that hunted look to his face.
Clay smiled and said, "OK, let's see if your clothes survived the washing machine and dryer?" He went out to the laundry room and retrieved Artie's clothing, they were in pretty disreputable shape. He told the boy to put them on temporarily and they would go into town and find some better clothes for him to wear. That was the beginning of an association that continues today with the boy who became Arthur Two Trees, the adopted son of a local farmer and his wife!
HURT BOYS, HUNGRY BOYS and SCARED BOYS
Word had been circulated among those living on the streets, that if you could make it to a campsite on the backside of Mt. Leston, near Tucson, you would be safe and someone would help you.
Clay had made it a practice of taking his big Ford F-250 4 X 4 truck up the old dirt road that led to the abandoned Campbell Mine. The mine had been a gold mine that failed in the 1930's and was all boarded up. There remained a few old buildings and an all-year spring nearby, making it a popular camping site. It was actually quite dangerous, but over the years The National Forest Service had bulldozed rock and dirt to cover the mine entrance, making it slightly more safe.
It was to here that an alarming number of homeless and street children came, hoping for help and rescue.
Clay had gotten involved with The REFUGE of Tucson and had volunteered to drive up to the mine occasionally to check for children staying there. It was usually boys, but there would sometimes be a girl or two in the mix!
The summer of 2005 was particularly hot, temperatures, even up in the high elevations, were exceeding 110 degrees!
The elevation of the mine was about 7500 feet, fortunately, the spring ran all year and there was a heavy shade cover of large pine trees, helping to control the high temperatures. As far as Clay knew, it was the only all year spring on the mountain.
Because of the unusual conditions, Clay had been driving up to the mine twice a week to check for homeless children. He had been up there several times recently and thought he had seen an older boy, but when he parked there was never a sign of him.
That day, however, as he pulled off the road, a tall, blond boy, about 20 years of age, came running out, waving his hands. He was crying and said, "Please, can you help me, Toby has fallen and I am sure his leg is broken!"
Clay jumped out of the cab of his truck and grabbed a blanket that he kept on the back seat. He followed the young man into the trees, where a group of boys stood, guarding another who was laying on a pile of pine needles.
The tall boy asked, "Are you Mr. Bayard?" Clay said that he was and the boy said, "Oh, thank goodness, we were told that you would help us if we ever needed it." He continued, "I have been keeping these guys out of trouble, but Toby was playing on the rocks and fell, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't go and leave the kids by themselves and they didn't know how to find you."
They got the injured boy onto the back seat of the truck, with a boy on either side of him to keep him from falling.
Clay went around to the driver side of the truck and grasped the older boy's hand, "Son, you and I, we need to talk, please be here when I get back."
The boy replied, "Sir, I am Alexander Hobin and yes, I will keep these boys safe and be here when you return." Clay hugged the boy and said, "Thank you, Alex."
Clay drove down the mountain as fast as he dared and headed into Tucson and University Hospital, where The Refuge had an agreement to treat homeless and abandoned children.
As soon as the orderlies took the injured Toby into an examining room, Clay turned to the two boys who had assisted him, "Boys, do you want to go back to the mountain or can I take you someplace where they will care for you and keep you safe?"
One boy said, "Not an orphanage!" Clay smiled and replied, "No, it is a Teen Refuge."
The boys agreed as long as Clay promised that if they didn't like it, they could leave and he would take them back up the mountain.
After he had been allowed to see Toby and assure him that he would be taken care of, Clay gathered up the other two and headed for The Refuge. He left them in the truck, while he spoke with Janice Morely, the director. He related all the circumstances to Janice and she agreed to take the boys if they wanted to stay.
He went back to the truck and retrieved the two boys who were now sitting on the tailgate, he explained to them what was going to happen. He looked at them and said, "Will you tell me your names?"
The boys were cousins, Billy and Jason Metcalf. He did not ask them any other questions and, as they were walking up the steps, Jason asked, "Mr. Bayard, Sir, aren't you going to ask why we ran or anything?"
Clay grinned and replied, ‘Nope, if you want to tell me, OK, but I'm not gonna pry!" The two boys stopped and looked at him as if he had two heads!
He just stood there with a grin on his face and suddenly, both boys tried to climb into his arms, they were sobbing great wracking sobs, tears were streaming down their faces and they all sat on the steps.
The two boys said together, "Bbb but, sir, we were bad!"
Clay hugged both boys and said, "Bad? Did you kill someone?" Both boys shook their heads no.
Clay asked, "Did you rob a bank?" and again the boys nodded no, but a grin started to show on their faces.
Clay said, "Look, guys, you have no safe place to go, you are hungry, dirty and scared. Let's fix those problems before we tackle bank robberies and such, ok?"
He led two shy boys, clinging to his hands to meet Miss Janice.
Two hours later, a couple of clean, fed and happy boys were sleeping in their bunk room as Clay and Janice peeked in on them. Clay said, "Keep the porch light on, I will bring you a bunch more!"
As he drove back to the mountain site, he wondered what he was going to do with Alex. The Refuge was only licensed to take in children under the age of 18 and Alex was obviously older than that, but he would be damned if he was going to leave that boy to fend for himself out on that mountainside!
When he got back to where the boys were camping, Alex had them all packed up. He smiled at Clay, "They are all ready to go with you."
Clay said, ‘Get your stuff, Alex. You are gonna come with me, too!" The truck was full, Alex rode in the back so there would be enough room for the smaller boys inside the cab.
When they got to The Refuge, Billy and Jason were waiting on the steps for them. Kelly asked, "Where is Toby?" Jason told him that Toby was asleep inside, they had given him some pain shots at the hospital. The boys all tried to talk at once, finally Jason and Billy grabbed all their hands and dragged them inside so they could show them their new rooms!
The arriving boys looked around, goggle-eyed, clean beds, a shower room, stacks of clean towels and sandwiches sitting on a table covered with a plastic cover, ready for anyone to eat one!
The boys went into overload, they sat on the floor and just cried.
Frank Dell, an ex-Navy Corpsman who ran the first aid room came and sat on the floor besides the boys. He waited until their sobs had tapered off, then he held out his arms, the six boys mobbed him, wanting to be held. Frank was a grandfather to four boys himself, so he knew how to hold and comfort frightened boys.
Alex looked around, sadly, and started to walk off, Clay caught him and asked, "Where are you going?" Alex replied, "This place is for younger boys, they have no room here for me." He was trying very hard not to cry himself.
Clay held him and said, "Yes, that is true, but I have a spare bedroom at my house, you wanna try it?"
They entered into a friendship that would last their lifetimes. Alex got a job working for a roofing company and decided to try going to the local Junior College.
The parents of his boss offered to rent him a small efficiency apartment in their basement, which he did.
Right after Christmas, he got a letter from his younger brother, Reggie, that upset him and he rushed over to Clay's house in tears.
He sat in Clay's living room and said, "Mr. Clay, POP, I need to tell you the whole truth. My parents threw me out because I wouldn't accept their fundamentalist beliefs, they said I was full of sin. Now they have locked my brother, Reggie, in his bedroom and put bars on the windows to "protect" him from evil ways."
Clay asked, "How old is your brother?" Alex replied, "He is 18 years old."
Clay jumped up, "They can't do that, he is an adult!"
Alex said, "Yeah, I know, but I got an idea. I'm gonna borrow Mr. D'Amato's old truck and go up there and get him."
Clay offered his truck, but Alex felt it was too distinctive and someone might be able to describe it. Mr. D'Amatos ‘s old truck was an older model Toyota that had seen better days.
The following Friday night, when Alex knew his parents would be at church services for several hours, he drove Mr. D'Amato's old Toyota pickup truck up to his parent's home. He wrapped a chain around the window bars and hooked the other end to the truck bumper, then he drove across the lawn, tearing the bars from the wall!
Once the bars were gone, he helped his brother, Reggie, gather his belongings and escape. Driving carefully, so as to not attract any unwelcome attention, he brought Reggie to Clay's house.
He held his brother's hand as he introduced him to Clay.
Clay told Reggie to just call him Pop, like Alex did.
Reggie also got a job with the roofing company and the two brothers rented a small apartment closer to Tucson and their jobs.
Before long, Reggie joined Alex at Community College, they both knew that education was their freedom. Both brothers excelled in school, making top grades every reporting period.
One or both of them made regular trips up the mountain and brought unwanted, uncared for boys to The Refuge. They were frequently seen organizing a soccer game or some other sport on the front lawn.
One day, Reggie spotted Clay walking down the hallway of The Refuge. He stopped him and said, "POP, I know what I want to do, I want to help throwaway boys!"
Clay had seen an article about a group called "Adventure Bound". They provided counseling and summer activities for homeless boys. The article had a telephone number, so he sat with Reggie as he called the number.
Reggie became very excited and as soon as he had hung up, he exclaimed, "POP, they want to interview me!" Clay saw to it that Reggie was properly dressed for the interview the following week. Reggie was so excited, he was jabbering!
Mr. D'Amato had let the boys use his old truck on a permanent basis, so Reggie drove over to the Omni Hotel for the interview.
Clay was enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee on his patio when he heard the old Toyota pickup drive into his yard and come to a screeching halt. He heard the truck door slam shut and he knew that Reggie was not far behind the sound.
As he started to stand up, Reggie came running onto the patio, grinning with a joyous smile, "POP! They want me to be a Camp Counselor next summer in Lander, Wyoming!
He was so excited, he could hardly sit to tell Clay all about the interview! He had a list of things he was supposed to bring and Clay told him he would help get it all together.
Reggie notified his employer that he would be leaving as soon as school was out for the summer and began gathering the things he would need.
Alex had enough credits, he would be graduating from Community College with an AA degree at the end of the semester. He enjoyed working for the roofing company, but he didn't think of it as a career!
He and Reggie were having supper with Clay at a small Italian Restaurant they enjoyed. Alex told Clay about his graduating and asked his advice on what he should do.
Clay had remembered meeting a Navy Officer who was in charge of the local Recruiting Office. Clay was an "old" Naval Officer himself, so the two had got to chatting. The Officer had spoken of a new Marine Corps program to offer Warrant Officer Commissions to those having an AA Degree and make them Helicopter Pilots.
Alex's eyes went wide, "You, you think……." Clay laughed, "Alex, the only way to find out is let's go talk to the man!" Clay called the Recruiting Office to make an appointment for Alex the very next day.
Alex insisted that Clay accompany him, for moral support, if nothing else! The Navy Officer turned Alex over to the Marine Recruiter and invited Clay into his office for a cup of coffee.
They sat down, Clay was a former Naval Officer and they "talked shop" while the Marine Recruiter attended to Alex's needs.
It turned out that Alex was exactly the type of person the new program was designed for. He met all the requirements and scored so high on the aptitude test, the Recruiter had rechecked his own work to make sure that HE had not made a mistake!
Alex was told that he would be notified within a week of the date he would be sent to a modified Warrant Officer Candidate School and Training! Alex was so excited, he could not eat his favorite meal, Mexican Food!
Clay had taken both boys out for supper, his treat. Reggie "volunteered" to eat what Alex was unable to! Three days later, Alex was on the telephone, "POP! It's here!"
Clay laughed, "Slow down, Alex, what's here?" Alex screamed, "My Orders, My Orders! I report on the 27th!"
Over the next few days, more information arrived in the mail and Clay helped Alex gather all the items on the list he had been sent. He received a set of "OFFICIAL" orders and a government transportation order for a flight to Charleston, South Carolina.
Early in the morning of May 26th, Reggie and Clay delivered a shaky, nervous Alex to Tucson International Airport.
Both brothers cried and Clay's eyes were not dry! He had come to love both boys, like they were sons to him!
Alex had named Clay as his Next of Kin (NOK) and, as they called his flight, he was torn between excitement and loss as he left Clay's embrace. Reggie was in tears as they waved their last glimpse of Alex. Clay's eyes were not dry either.
Clay held Reggie until he had recovered. Both men were quiet and somber as they returned to Clay's home.
Reggie left the next day for Lander and his first time as an Adventure Bound Counselor.
Several days later, there was a letter from Alex in Clay's post office box. In it, he told Clay that he would be at WOCS (Warrant Officer Candidate School) in Beaufort, South Carolina for three months. After graduation he would be sent to Cherry Point, North Carolina for six months of Helicopter Pilot training. He wanted, also, to take an extra course as he wanted to be a MediVac Pilot!
As Alex's training progressed, Clay had an idea. He telephoned his Foster Son Jake, who had recently retired from the Marine Corps as a Gunnery Sergeant.
Clay said, "Jake, a protégée of mine is at Beaufort in the WOCS program. Could you possibly drive down there from Richmond and visit him on Family Weekend?"
Jake laughed, "POP and his sons, how many does this one make?"
Clay just laughed, "Will you do it?" Jake replied, "Sure and I will go full dress!"
Jake was a highly decorated combat Marine, he actually "clanked" when he walked! Between all his medals and his prosthetic leg, he set off alarms at any airport.
Clay heard later that the poor DI in charge of Alex's Training Platoon nearly had a heart attack when this Gunny, his chest covered in medals and ribbons, walked up and hugged WOC Alexander Hobin, calling him "Brother"!
Finally, Clay received a notice that Alexander Hobin, having met all the requirements, would graduate from Warrant Officer Candidate School on September 5th.
The letter contained two passes and seating tickets for the Family Grandstand. Reggie was away with Adventure Bound, but he KNEW he would want to go, so he made airplane reservations for the two of them.
Reggie returned home to his apartment, Alex had promised to help him with the rental, on August 15th. Reggie returned from Lander, tanned and fit. He had to hustle, classes at Community College would resume in a few days and he had to buy books and materials.
After cleaning up, he drove up to see Clay and be brought up to date on all the happenings. He was as excited as Clay over the prospect of seeing Alex.
As the day grew closer, Reggie and Clay grew even more close, on Sunday afternoon, Reggie knocked on Clay's door, saying that he needed some advice. Clay took him out to the patio, where the cool shade made a pleasant place to visit.
Reggie said, "uhhmmmmm, Pop, I uuuhm, oh, darn!" He began again, "Pop, I have met this girl, uuuugh." Clay chuckled to himself and waited for more. Finally, Reggie continued, "POPIHAVEMETTHISGIRLANDIREALLYLIKEHER."
By now Clay was having a hard time to keep from laughing! He said, "Now, slow down Reggie. You have met this girl and she is your dream. You want to marry her!"
Reggie looked at Clay in amazement, "How did you know?"
By now, Clay was laughing and trying to catch his breath! He said, "Reggie, I may be old, but I ain't DEAD yet! When do I get to meet this dreamboat?"
Reggie screamed, "OH ……." And he ran out the door!
He returned, with a sheepish look on his face, "I, eeerr, left her in the truck!"
By now, poor Clay could no longer keep a straight face, he howled in laughter. He turned to the blushing girl, "Please excuse this clown, I am Clayton Bayard."
Reggie finally introduced the girl as Sharron Barstock and that she was a Freshman at the University of Arizona.
After things had calmed a bit, Clay told Reggie about Alex's graduation and the envelope full of tickets. They made plans to go, but Sharron said she could not get away from her job at that time.
On the afternoon of September 3rd, Clay picked Reggie up at his apartment and they drove to the airport. Clay parked the truck in the long term parking lot and they both went to the terminal to check in.
The flight was long and dreary, they had to change planes in Atlanta and it was 10 PM before they finally arrived in Charleston.
Clay had made reservations at the Marriot, so they took the courtesy van to the hotel and collapsed for the night.
The next day was the day before graduation, so Clay took Reggie on a short sightseeing tour of Old Charleston before collecting their rental car and heading for Beaufort.
It was an easy drive, they arrived mid-afternoon and the front desk at their motel had a welcome package from The Marine Corps Training Command for them.
In the package was a list of recommended places to eat, Clay spotted a Seafood Specialty Restaurant listing, so he suggested they go there.
Reggie was lost when he looked at the menu, "Pop, some of this stuff, I don't even KNOW what it is or even how to pronounce it!"
Clay ended up ordering for both of them, it was served "All You Can Eat" Reggie groaned all night long!
Graduation Day dawned bright, clear and hot, a typical South Carolina Day, HUMID! They drove out to the base and were seated by 10:30 for the 11:00 Ceremony.
As things were starting, a young Marine Corporal came up to Clay, "Sir, the Commanding Officer asks that you and your son come down to the Awards Platform, please."
Clay and Reggie looked at each other and shrugged, so they followed the Corporal and were seated on some folding chairs to the side of the platform. The ceremony began with the National Anthem and then some opening remarks by a Marine General.
The Commanding Officer of the Training Command then stood and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored Guests and Distinguished Marines, I have the honor of presenting a Warrant Officer Candidate whose outstanding performance at this command forces us to take special note of his accomplishments! Will Mr. Clayton Bayard and Mr. Reginald Hobin please stand with me?"
He then announced, "We will now present the Warrant Officer Graduates in order of their Class Rank, "Warrant Officer Candidate Alexander Hobin, step forward.
The Corporal handed Clay a cardboard square with two Warrant officer Rank Bars on it. Clay knew what to do, he handed one bar to Reggie and whispered, "Do as I do!"
Alex stepped forward and smartly saluted the Marine Colonel, then turned and faced Clayton and Reggie. He saluted again as Clay pinned his left shoulder and Reggie copied it on the right shoulder.
Alex smiled and saluted his Family a second time before marching off the stand. Clay was so proud of Alex, he was nearly in tears.
They sat back down for the remainder of the ceremony. After it was completed, they stood, looking for Alex, who came up behind them with a huge smile on his face. He hugged Clay, "Pop, I did it!" Reggie hugged his brother, then stepped back and looked him up and down. He turned to Clay and said, "Pop, this IS my big brother!"
They heard someone shouting behind them, as Clay turned, he was astounded, there stood Jake and his wife, Teresa, who was holding young Jake's hand. Stacey, Clay's other Foster Son, and his partner, Erin and Carl, Stacey and Erin's Foster Son were all watching him!
Clay's heart began to pound and he needed desperately to sit down. Jake noticed Clay's distress and grabbed a chair for his Foster Father. After he caught his breath, Clay was in tears, but they were happy tears!
Alex had a 72 hour leave, so they gathered up their cars and everyone headed to Clay's Hotel. Clay was startled when he found that was where the others were staying also, Carl giggled and said, "We saw you, Grandpop, but it was supposed to be a surprise!"
REGGIE BECOMES CAMP DIRECTOR
They saw Alex off to Cherry Point and Helicopter Pilot Training before heading back to Tucson.
Reggie had one more year at Community College, then he had no definite plans. He continued at the top of his class and he had just completed semester finals when he came racing into Clay's living room, waving a fist full of papers.
Adventure Bound was offering him a scholarship at Northern Arizona University!
Arthur Two-Trees was visiting and had just come out of the kitchen. He looked at Reggie, "I am going there next year on a Tribal Scholarship!"
Then he realized, he would be a Freshman and Reggie would be a lofty Junior! A close friendship had developed between Reggie and Artie, Reggie looked upon Artie as his little brother!
Reggie said, "How about I check on being an RA in the Freshman Dorm?"
Artie's eyes got big, "You would be a Resident Advisor for a bunch of Freshmen, just for me?"
Reggie just laughed and replied, "Sure!"
The next day, Reggie called the Housing office at NAU and they were happy to get an RA without having to twist someone's arm! He made it a condition that his younger brother, Arthur Two-Trees, was to be his roommate.
The people in the Housing Office were so relieved to have someone VOLUNTEER to be a Freshman Dorm RA, they rushed to grant the request!
Community College ended classes on May 15th, and Reggie began packing for another summer camping session in Lander. He had been offered the position of Camp Director as part of the scholarship he had been given from Adventure Bound.
He was doubtful he was qualified, but Clay reassured him all would work out. He bought Reggie a cell phone and told him to call anytime he had a signal.
Clay delivered Reggie to the airport, thinking, "This boy is as organized as a soup sandwich!" Clay was sure Reggie was going to explode before he ever got on the airplane!
Clay received a call from him when he arrived in Lander, but the camping area was outside the cell phone signal, so he heard no more from Reggie until early August.
He answered his phone, it was Reggie, "Pop, I am at the hospital in Lander."
Clay clutched, "Are you hurt bad?" Reggie giggled, "No Pop, I just brought in a camper who fell off a cliff and broke his leg."
Clay sighed in relief and said, "Thank Goodness, when you get home, I have a stack of papers here for you from NAU." Reggie told him he would be home in two weeks as school started on August 25th.
Clay was unable to go to Alex's graduation from Pilot Training, his heart was giving him problems and the doctor told him he should not fly!
Jake and his family attended the ceremonies and pinned Alex with his Pilot Wings! Contingent upon his graduation from Flight School was his promotion to CWO4 (Chief Warrant Officer Grade 4), which Jake, also was proud to place on his shoulders!
Alex immediately reported for MediVac training for another two months, then, to Clay's horror, Alex received orders to Kandahar, Afghanistan!
Clay sat in his living room, tears running down his old face. Clay had seen the horrors of war first hand in his own youth and now this young man, whom he considered his son, was being sent into harm's way!
Reggie had called to let Clay know everything was fine at NAU, he sensed Clay's unhappiness, so, after he had hung up, he told Artie, "We gotta go home this weekend, Pop is hurting!"
Artie's folks had given him a new Ford Pickup truck for his high school graduation, so they piled what they needed in the truck and headed home for the weekend. They burst into Clay's living room and grabbed him, held him in their embrace.
Reggie asked, "What's wrong Pop?" Crying, Clay told them.
Reggie said, "Pop, Alex is doing what he always dreamed of, would you deny him that?"
Clay shook his head and Reggie continued, "Pop, he is flying MediVac, NOT combat, we will pray for him, but he will be safe! He is doing what he wanted to do, saving people!"
As the months passed, Reggie's statement proved not to be true, Alex was wounded and spent many weeks in the hospital recovering.
Clay became closer than ever to all three boys, it was as if they were THREE BROTHERS rather than just two! In the years to come, they WERE three brothers and they cared for Clay for the remainder of his life.
Alex received the Bronze Star for saving the lives of the wounded soldiers he was carrying in his helicopter and early promoted to CWO3!
Reggie graduated _'magna cum laude' and was promoted to Western Region Manager of Adventure Bound._
Artie is now a Senior at the University and works with his Father in providing a home and employment on the Family's Farm for 18 young men who had become too old to be cared for at The Refuge.
Clay continues tutoring teens who need a boost and visits the mountainside campsite regularly.