Two days before Christmas in 1973, it was cold and beginning to snow when I set out from Great Lakes, Illinois, at 6 a.m. to get home to my two boys on Long Island.
My sons, Tommy and Bobby, were in a foster home in Levittown because my wife had left us. I was in the Navy and didn't have enough money to fly home, but didn't want to disappoint them.
My buddy Roger had a car and could get me as far as Ohio. I could get a Greyhound bus there. The roads were starting to get icy, and Roger's car skidded and hit the back of a truck. We were lucky, though, and escaped unhurt, but now I had to hitchhike.
I recalled a poem by Robert Frost that read in part, “The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and many miles to go before I sleep."
At this point, I was 50 miles from Indianapolis. Seeing me in my dress blues, a man who said he never picked up hitchhikers gave me a ride because it was Christmastime. He dropped me off near a ramp that went into town.
Just than, another man driving a snowplow saw me and offered a ride as well. He got me into Indianapolis. I was walking in snow about a half-foot deep, a young couple picked me up and drove me to the bus station. I got out and wished them a happy holiday.
The station was crammed with homebound soldiers and sailors. I struck up a conversation with a young woman who was also trying to get home to New York City to her daughter. We found out that Greyhound was giving couples first priority, so we presented ourselves as a pair and got a bus sooner.
I finally got to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan at 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve. I got on an F train and then a bus, which took me to Queens Village where I was greeted heartily by my father-in-law Charlie and my mother-in law Barbara.
We had breakfast and set out to pick up the boys in Levittown. When we got there four-year-old Tommy saw me first and yelled out to Bobby, then three, that "new daddy" was here.
We got back to the Queens Village house that night and cerebrated Christmas. I opened my bag and gave my boys their toys, a Mack truck, fire truck and coloring books and crayons, which I said Santa Claus had entrusted to me when I was up North.
At that, they hugged and gave me a big kiss. My long journey was well worth it.
I hope and pray that the many who are serving our country today can make it home safely as I did so long ago. Families are what the holidays are all about, but more importantly it truly means a lot to our military men and women during the holidays. Sincrely,
Frederick R. Bedell, Jr.
Glen Oaks Village