SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 47: “You’ve Got To Have Respect For Other People”

Last night I introduced you to Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Boal, promising to tell you of my experience with him.

Here we go. Bottom line, it was a roller coaster ride.

Flashback: Antoinette and I wrap up our interview, Colonel nowhere in sight. Pretty sure he has left to the liquor store a few doors down. I assume he is out.

I ready myself for a return home to enter my blog and begin to express my final thank you’s to Antoinette. As we do so, back to us returns Kevin. He is in full stride, taking control of the situation by jumping center stage in resuming his dialogue.

“Are you a veteran!!” he asks (it is not a mistake I use !! instead of ?). The question comes at me as sharp as a bullet. “No, I did not serve, I was between the draft and did not volunteer,” I reply. He looks away as if disgusted, leaving me carrying a set of mixed emotions. My legs wobble a little as I feel thoughts ranging from inadequacy to defensiveness.

Why!?! he blasts at me. Trying to gain his trust, “I was young, If I knew then what I know now, a may have enlisted.” “Are you f*#*ing stupid!” gets slammed back in my face as he chests up on me. Realizing there is no way I can get in his head and wanting to settle things down a bit, I look him in the eyes. “I’m speechless, there is no way I can understand what you went through.” He steps back and exhorts, “your, f*#ing* right.”

I’m thinking, “it’s over, we’re done, he is out of the game if I push him too far.

But there is still a draw that I cannot escape. I need to know more. I decide to risk one more question, “will you let me interview you, you have a lot to share?” He shakes his head away, “I have nothing to say.”

Of to the side is Antoinette, witnessing the whole exchange. She has been observing silently, and somehow I think she is monitoring the situation. She contributes to the scene, “I think you have a lot of wisdom to share, you should do it.” Kevin again declines, “wisdom, right! I’ve got nothing to share!”

He again takes control of the moment and drops into testing me with an endless barrage of questions: California history, military facts, and asking if he can have my camera. I answer all to the best of my ability and hold my ground.

We go at it for 30 minute, or thereabouts, as we do the mood slowly changes to a more relaxed pace. An openness is starting to occur. The Colonel is beginning to let me in to his world.

We begin with simple exposures, “I’m part Sioux Indian and part Irish, watch out!” He says while cracking a smile. We are one hour into our chat, when he asks, ‘Want to see my office.”

I follow him through the laundromat as he lets me know that, up until a few days prior, he worked as security for the business. “I was told my services are no longer needed.” We walk through the facility; there are about 10 people at various stations, all in different stages of their cleaning rituals.

All seem to know the Colonel. The guy is a serious extrovert, complimenting everyone with various words and flirting with the women. None look away and engage with him as if they have personal history. Even two or three customers come up in trusting him with their customer service questions. It is obvious that he is no stranger and this confirms to me of his past employment.

We continue our travel through the store and end up in the parking lot at the rear of the building. I find myself standing alone with him at the back door. His demeanor is changing. With arms to the sky, he states, “here it is!”

“You’ve got great air circulation and lots of elbow room… great office!” I express. He looks at me and laughs.

He squats by the door, grabs a bagged bottle and takes a drink. We are silent for a moment taking in the sky. He stands up, “look up there you can see Jupiter.” With one eye on him, one eye at the sky and my feet readied to take me through the door, I look up and acknowledge his sighting.

Back at me as if weighing me up, his eye line shifts, “what do you want to know? And promise you will not make me look like a jerk!” I give him my word, “there is no way you can look like a jerk, you have a lot of wisdom to share. The only jerks are the one’s who judge you.”

“I used to be a terrible person, but as I get older, I have grown.” He is very specific about the word grown. I once again try to empathize, “I understand, life has a way of changing us.” I am rebuked, “no I have grown!” He smiles again.

It is not all intense topics with The Colonel. He tells me of his four marriages, loss of a home in the 1995 Northridge earthquake, and his trials growing up. Some items very dark, others on the lighter side.

It is now that it strikes me, even though he has had a very difficult life, his is a proud Veteran, a loyal American and very serious about his country and fellow servicemen.

I wish I could write the solemn words he entrusts me with. But in honor to him I will tell you only this in regards to Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Boal, he has great depth and a history that deserves him his vices. At times he alarms me, and at others, with suppressed tears in his eyes, he also moves me.

90 minutes into our time together we return to the front of the building for our photo session, if that is what we can call it. Really, he stood for a couple of minutes, lit a cigarette and signed off.

The last lesson in military respect comes as we conclude our evening. A man walks up, taking a pause from his laundry duties. “Are you a veteran?” he directs at The Colonel. “Vietnam” is the reply.

The man goes on to state his service, and even though he did not see front line he shares, “I was scared shitless.” The Lieutenant Colonel immediately reaches out his hand, and over a firm handshake, says, “welcome home!” They both well up, but quickly hide their emotion.

I think I’m starting to get the message.

There have been quite a few military related entries over the last few weeks. I admit in not serving. But one thing is growing in my heart. Bless our servicemen and women. Their sacrifices are at times great.

So next time you come across a Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Boal in your neighborhood, there is one thing you need to do, tell them, “thank you… and welcome home!”

Kevin’s words to share, “you’ve got to have respect for other people.”

The Colonel leaves me with a challenge:
He tells me, “Yuwipi is my religion.” I looked it up. If you are interested in Sioux culture and faith, research it, very interesting.