The Power of Garbage Trucks and Toy Soldiers

MichaelToday my family remembers the 20th anniversary of my little brother’s death. He was 34 years old when he died as a soldier stationed in Ft. Bragg, NC.  I remember that as a child, he loved garbage trucks. Why? Because we grew up living next door to our town’s local garbage collector. The neighbor parked his two humongous, smelly trucks in the yard next our house every day for many years. They were a magnet for little boys who loved trucks. I remember shaking my head as the older, sophisticated sister, plugging my nose and making faces at the little kids who couldn’t keep their hands off those stinking trucks.

He also loved toy soldiers.  Back in the day my little brothers had boxes full of military green, plastic soldiers. They were molded with guns in their hands in different stances and the boys would play for hours burying them in the backyard sand pile and planning attacks on each other’s “guys.”

We all remember my brother saying over and over again, “When I grow up I want to be either a garbage man with my own garbage truck or a soldier in the Army.”  True story. These were powerful toys to my brother. The power of his play as a child led him to join the US Army in 1977 after he graduated from high school. Over the next 16 years he served with the 20th Engineer Brigade, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 5th Special Forces Group. At every level of training, he was called out as “#1 basic trainee”, “recruit of the cycle”, or “distinguished honor graduate.”

What is your child’s passion?  Throwing a ball? Spending a long time on a puzzle or building blocks? Dressing up in costumes and creating make-believe castles? Maybe helping you cook or clean the house!  As a parent, you should notice what your child’s passions are at an early age. By sharing your own enthusiasm for things like sports, drawing, science, dancing, or photography you can launch opportunities for your kids to express themselves in a positive way.  Never underestimate the power of play!

10 responses

  1. I remember the same story. Never went on to have kids of my own but am now apart of many friends childrens lives. I pass on all the good knowledge that you’ve filled me in on all these years. Kids are the best. Especially when you love them, listen to them, watch over them and learn from them. I’ve learned so much. Thanks for the story Beth.

  2. Thanks Beth for sharing this story. Heart warming and wrenching all at the same time. When I was young I was always creating stuff. Made my first jewelry line out of telephone wire and sold it in the school cafeteria in elementary school, until I was told I was not allowed to! Creative and entrepreneurial early on. : )

  3. I think of your brother every time I drive past Fort Bragg on my way to the beach. I remember your anguish when you went down to NC from Boston to find out what happened to him. I never really knew the story of his disappearance, but do recall the pride with which you spoke of him. This is a lovely remembrance of him, Beth!

    • Thanks Carolyn….so nice to hear that you remember him when you’re close to the base. It was fun writing this post and connecting it to my work with kids and families every day.

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