I was born in a foreign land over 4,000 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean. Its countryside was mostly green with the lush fields of grass, clover and the beloved Irish Shamrock. There was also the purple tint of the heather growing wildly throughout the mountains of Wicklow and Howth. Dublin, Ireland was my place of birth and like many others in America I celebrate my heritage each year on March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day.
Ireland is my place of birth, my heritage, but the United States of America is my home, and most importantly now, my country.
The Troy clan arrived at Ellis Island on December 19th. 1949 as we caught a brief glance of the Statute of Liberty holding her beacon symbolizing the freedom of this country and welcoming all aliens to her shores. From there we took a two-day ride aboard a Greyhound bus to our final destination, the Scholl Farms in La Porte County, Indiana. Dr. William Scholl the inventor of the Scholl specialized footpad was the gracious gentleman who sponsored our family enabling us to enter the U.S.A.
The trip was highly memorable for me as a young lad of 11 years of age. I recall staying awake that first night with my eyes glued to the window as the bus moved through the night with the roads filled with more snow and Christmas lights than I had seen in my lifetime.
Mom died in 1952 of cancer just a few years after we had arrived and Dad was faced with a tough decision, return to Ireland with his brood, one son and four daughters, or stay in America. He worked a minimum of two jobs the rest of his life to fulfill his and my mother’s dream of bringing their family to America. I was my mother’s only son, and she spoiled me rotten. When she died I was 13 years old and had a lot of difficulty with the loss of her. For some time after her death I rebelled against my life without her.
I joined the United States Marine Corps in Dec. 1955 shortly after turning seventeen. A special waiver had to be granted and signed by the commandant of the Marine Corps allowing me to join as an alien, a citizen of Ireland. I recall being asked by my drill instructor that if America were in a war with Ireland what side would I fight on? I became a helicopter mechanic in the air wing division and later served as a rifle coach and instructor on the range at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
I was discharged from active duty in 1960 and my inactive time was fulfilled in 1963.
In 1964 I became a citizen of this great country. The swearing in ceremony was held at the Federal District Court at South Bend, Indiana. Former citizens from Japan, England, Korea, Russia, and of course Ireland were sworn in that day. We answered questions about the constitution and it’s many amendments, we recited the pledge of allegiance, and we sang the National Anthem. It was a very happy day in my life!
In 1967 I ran into an old school pal of mine from St. Peters grade school in La Porte, Indiana. Master Sergeant Charles Lindewald was home on Christmas leave and was soon departing for his fifth tour of duty in Vietnam. We spent many hours together that evening discussing the memories of our youth. I showed him my scared knuckles from being rapped on the hand with a ruler by Sister Ramona in 8th grade. He showed me that one of his earlobes was longer then the other from being pulled from the classroom by the same nun for acting up in class. We toasted each other a Merry Christmas, a long life, good health, and to our many memories. Charlie returned to Vietnam and was reported missing in action for the past 35 years.
In November 2003 Charlie’s remains were found in a caved in bunker near Lang Vei in Vietnam along with his photo ID card and the dentures that he wore. A memorial service was held in a small church on Indiana Avenue in La Porte, Indiana. The brotherly love, respect, and admiration for this 29-year-old Green Beret hero was so thick in presence in the aura felt that day by all in attendance. In Feb. 2005 a funeral was held at Arlington National Cemetery where his remains found their final resting place. Master Sergeant Charles Lindewald received 3 purple hearts, a silver star, and a bronze star.
This past year I was pleased to be able to attend the Wall Gangs Moving Wall display at Washington Park. Charlie’s name was not on this traveling display as he was probably still listed as MIA. I would appreciate the opportunity of visiting the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. in an effort to connect once again with Charlie, his memory, heroism, and his legacy, a man who definitely gave all for his country.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.