I have often written about my best friend, Sonny, who passed away in November last of cancer. He and I were inseparable most of our lives growing up. It was a time when we could roam in the woods playing cowboys and Indians or combat or Civil War or whatever. We camped out regularly and we were blessed to be together as friends, closer than brothers. When we graduated high school, I was to head off to college in the fall. While Sonny wanted to go to college, his dad insisted he join the Air Force. I remember driving to his house around 4:30 in the morning to see him off. The morning that Sonny left for basic training changed our lives forever. After we said goodbye, I cried all the way home.
Going through some old boxes of photos, I ran into a letter that Sonny wrote to me about two weeks after he left. In fact, it is written on July 24, 1973—a day after his 18th birthday. Sonny was the type of person who would make the best out of any situation. I knew he would have rather went to college to later become an astronaut, but here he was, Air Force recruit, and he was finding the very best in the experience. He wrote: “Dear Bill, How are you? I just received your letter yesterday (his birthday). I am sorry I didn’t write sooner. It’s just that I don’t have too much time to myself. I really like the Air Force. I’m not too crazy about basic training, but the overall Air Force is great. Today is my 13th training day. Come Thursday, we will be half way through with it (15th day).
“You might have noticed by my address I’m in 3701 squadron. We’re the number one squadron on the base of Lackland! Pretty lucky, huh! I’ll try to give you a general picture of what basic is like. We get up at 5 am every morning except Sundays (then we get up at 6 am). We make our beds (which is becoming a habit). Half the time, I can’t even remember making it. I guess that’s what you call self-discipline, ha! Then we fall out for chow. After chow, we come back and finish making any beds we didn’t get before chow…Then our day begins. We go to drill (that’s marching), then physical training. I laugh. Talk about easy, man. Football practice makes this place look like a girls club, really. Then we go to lunch. After that, we have classes the rest of the day. We go to supper, then mail call, and the rest of the day is ours.
“There’s only one hang up. The roughest part is the mental part. They bring you down here, scare the heck out of you, and threaten to set you back in your training to the first day. They also throw a bunch of rules and regulations on you. But if you keep your nose clean, do exactly what you’re told to do when you’re told to do it, and no more, you’ll be all right. Seriously, I’m beginning to like it more and more. Well, I’ve got to go, so I’ll be seeing you. Take it easy, Son. P.S. Don’t worry, I can always find time to write my best friend, OK.” Sonny was very successful in everything he put his mind to do, especially at being my best friend. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who is closer than a brother.” Always cherish your friends and family for time is short no matter how much time you have.