SLOAN COLUMN: 40 years later, they’ve still got my ‘six’
A few weeks back my good friend Eddie Collins wandered into the office. I hadn’t seen him in a while and I was glad he had stopped by. I shook his hand and invited him to take a seat. Eddie’s a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam. I first met him a couple of years ago when the Gold Star Monument at Florence Veterans Park was dedicated. Eddie’s proud of his service to our country and understandably so. He knows how proud I am to have served in the Marine Corps, even if it was during peace time. After a little small talk, Eddie asked if I had ever read a book called “The Greatest Beer Run Ever.” I said I hadn’t but recognized the title because I saw something about it on Facebook but didn’t pay it much attention. I figured it had something to do with college life and fraternities, or possibly the autobiography of singer/songwriter Todd (He of “B-Double E-Double R-U-N, Beer Run” fame). Eddie pulled out a copy of the book and slid it across my desk. “Man, you’ve got to read this,” he said. “It’s a crazy story about brotherhood in the military. It’s so crazy it’s hard to believe, but it’s one hundred percent true. I guarantee you’ll love it.” He was spot on. After seeing Eddie’s enthusiasm and then reading the synopsis on the back cover, I was sold. The book, written by John “Chickie” Donahue, has actually gotten lots and lots of attention of late. In fact, it’s being made into a movie starring, among others, Russell Crowe, Zac Efron and Billy Murray. If you’re not familiar with “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” here’s a very brief summary of the plot: Taking place in 1967, John “Chickie” Donohue, is Merchant Marine who not too long ago had returned from Vietnam after serving in the Marine Corps. After a being challenged by friends at a neighborhood bar, he sets out from New York on a Merchant Marine ship to return to Vietnam. He has one goal: Track down and share a beer with six of his childhood friends who were serving in the Army. And thus begins “Chickie” Donahue’s extraordinarily wild adventure. It easily falls into the “it’s so crazy it must be true,” category. The book is well worth the time spent reading it. I encourage you to read it before it opens in theaters. Eddie’s giving me a copy of the book couldn’t have come at a better time. It was mid-October and just a few weeks away from Veterans Day. I’ve spent lots of time thinking about the brothers I served with in the Corps. It is truly hard to explain the bond that’s created between a few knuckleheads who calls themselves “Jarheads” or “Leathernecks” or “Devil Dogs.” It’s a bond that far outlasts your end of active service. It’s a bond that lasts a lifetime. When your buddy says, “I’ve got your six,” you know he means it. “Chickie” traveled halfway around the world just to drink a beer with his brothers, give them a pat on the back, and to tell them that folks back home still believed in them and supported them. That’s brotherhood, folks. “Chickie” had Tommy, Rick, Kevin, Richie, Joey, and Bobby. For me, it’s John, Steve, Chuck, Mike, Darryl, Pete and Tony, to name a few. Some 40 years later, these guys whom I call my brothers still have my six. They’ve proven it. If the time comes, I will do my very best to be there for them. And, yes, I’d proudly buy and drink a beer with any one of them. I did just that a few years back when we had a reunion at The Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va. We need to do it again – and soon. There are lots of veterans who don’t like to talk about their time in the military, particularly if they served in combat. Ask them about the friendships that were built while in uniform and see what happens. I assure you there will be no shortage of words. Semper Fi. Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor@florence newsjournal.com.