Mounted on telephone poles, pictures of local service members line the avenue into town. These display the members’ dates of service, rank, and branch. I have seen this tribute in a few other places before. Not large cities, mostly areas where the population caps around 5,000. The towns feature a main street or avenue where the pictures are posted. I glance up from the wheel. I see mostly black and white photographs, some sepia, of men who served in Korea, World War II, and Vietnam. Female and younger service members may also be included; this is simply what I notice as traffic permits. The editing of the old photos appears flawless. The men beam; their faces shine.
Beaver’s main street features a hot dog shop advertising the best shakes ever, a frame shop, a Chevy dealer, bakery, laundromat, and the expected assortment of gas stations, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway. A bank thermometer displays 85 in the late afternoon. I get out and walk around, aiming for the shade. The sidewalk bricks radiate the June heat. A cemetery fills a few square blocks, followed by parks on either side. High trees provide shade. Gazebos and a bandstand dot the area.
Three men sit on a bench near a corner. They fit, but without any space to spare. None of them seem to mind the snugness. I greet them as I pass. They nod.
One wears a Vietnam veteran’s hat. Two wear bifocals, both aviator style with large lenses, although one man’s frames are silver and the other’s gold. Two motorcycles sit behind the trio, parked parallel to each other just behind their bench. Flags, also Vietnam-related, flutter faintly from the seat backs.
All three wear short sleeves. Liver spots and scars dot the leathery skin of their arms. A tattoo sprawls along one man’s forearm. I cannot guess the original image; it blurred long ago into a blue blob. The man on the right holds a walking stick in front of him, resting both hands on it.
I imagine the three of them in their early 20s. Polished in dress shirts and jackets, their younger selves gazing from the photographs on the light poles above us.
Bravo, my Friend! I can feel the heat of this late afternoon, and see the faces of the vets as they sit on that bench. Thanks!