Cumberland Times-News

March 23, 2013

They’re not lost in time, if we remember

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— What often happens is that someone will ask me or another of our staffers about an item that once upon a time was in the paper. (I am going to reverse that role today, but we’ll get to that later.)

Because we have access to an electronic archive, we sometimes can provide the answer.

A friend I’ve never met in person who lives in Alaska sent an e-mail asking about a time capsule that was buried in 1955 in Constitution Park as part of Cumberland’s bicentennial.

She also sent me two pictures of moose — one was on her front porch, and the other was eating berries off a bush in a park where she lives — and said she was watching the finish of the Iditarod sled dog race.

I found out about the time capsule in two old Rosenbaum’s store ads. It was to contain about 5,000 photos of Cumberland residents, President Eisenhower and other dignitaries, and a quantity of “historical papers and other pertinent data.”

There was to be a pageant called “Redskins and Redcoats,” with a cast of about 1,000 people. My friend was a student at Fort Hill and took part in it. She said it was a hoot.

What they would call this pageant today, I have no idea. “Native Americans and Native Englishmen,” or something like that.

I don’t know if it’s politically incorrect to refer to British soldiers as “Redcoats,” considering that some of them still wear red, but only as dress uniforms; it provides too good a target to wear as battle dress.

There was to be a grand parade, a variety of speakers, a free dance on Centre Street at the C&P Telephone Company and, at 12:05 a.m. on Aug. 20, a changeover ceremony from operator assistance to direct distance dialing at the phone company itself.

The capsule was to be encased in cement and accompanied by a bronze marker designed to inform future citizens that it was to be “exhumed” and opened in 2055.

My friend and I agree that neither of us is likely to be around for that.

That said, I am now going to ask you for help in solving a mystery that involves a story I wrote for the paper 40 years or so ago, somewhere between 1969 and the early to mid 1970s.

I was not very good about clipping and saving my stories and, try as I might, I can’t find it in our electronic archive.

This was one of the first two stories I ever wrote about a Vietnam Veteran. (The other was about a man who since has become a good friend. He tells me that he still has a framed copy of it.)

The lost story involved a man who was either an Army medic or a Navy corpsman who served with the Marines during the Vietnam War.

He had survived his tour and returned home with the idea of becoming a nurse.

Today, this wouldn’t be a big deal. My medical provider is a certified registered nurse practitioner, and a man.

I almost would trust him more than I would a regular doctor, because he is what in the military would be referred to as a mustang — an enlisted man who worked his way up through the ranks to become an officer.

Starting as a nurse, he has seen all aspects of what goes on. He is good at what he does, and is wise enough to realize when something is out of his league, at which point he refers me to someone who has MD after his name, rather than CRNP.

However, the subject of my story wanted to become a nurse back in the days when men didn’t do such things.

The local hospitals had nursing schools, but they were for women only. The idea that a man would want to be a nurse was laughed at — literally.

This fellow and I actually were written up in The People’s Guardian, a rabble-rousing and sometimes useful newspaper that was printed in Frostburg.

The Evening and Sunday Times and The Cumberland News were generally considered by the Guardian to be enemies of the first water, but on this occasion they agreed with the gist of my story — that it was ridiculous for someone with this man’s qualifications to be denied entry to nursing school.

Those of you who know me — or who read what I write here on Sundays — are aware of how important our veterans are to me, particularly those who went to Vietnam while I stayed at home because of an injury I had in high school.

Over the past few years, I have often wondered about this man ... a man who undoubtedly was responsible for other men returning home to their loved ones, possibly even someone I know.

He deserved a better lot than he was getting. It’s because of him and a few other men and women who are now my friends that eventually I started writing about the despicable treatment many of our Vietnam Veterans received, instead of being welcomed home with open arms as they should have been.

I cannot remember the man’s name, and it haunts me. I want to know what became of him ... did he ever get into nursing school, or maybe even become a nurse practitioner or a physician’s aide?

Is he still alive? Did he achieve his dream, or did he become successful in some other field?

Or did he wind up like another Vietnam Veteran I once tried to locate for a friend, who said that as his lieutenant, the man had saved his life and those of several other soldiers.

What I found out was that one day, when he was at home alone and convinced that his life and what he had done meant nothing, the man hanged himself.

Dear Lord, please don’t let that be the case this time.

And so, today, I am asking you for help.

I would like the chance to shake his hand, tell him “Welcome Home” and talk to him once more. His is a story I started four decades years ago, and I would like be able to tell you the rest of it.

If you remember that old story, or when it ran ... or if you may know something of the man I wrote about, please tell me. I can be reached at jgoldsworthy@times-news.com or 301-722-4600, Ext. 2240.

I would be more grateful than you might ever realize.