My father was an old New England Yankee skinflint, and damn proud of it. I remember coming home from college and doing a little Christmas shopping with him. As we exited the store he nonchalantly dropped money into the Salvation Army bucket, apparently hoping I wouldn’t notice. Not coins, mind you, but real PAPER MONEY.

"Are their no workhouses? No Prisons?" I asked.
"Wiseguy…" he mumbled, with a sheepish half-smile.
Then his expression changed; as if he was looking in a mirror and didn’t like what he saw. Now I was curious.
"No, really… What was that all about?" I asked, as we got into his old farm truck.
"You’re nineteen now, right?" I nodded.
"When I was nineteen, I spent the summer of 1944 in the Marine Corps on Saipan. I’d ride in the open hatch of a tank set up with a flamethrower. We’d go all around the caves and bunkers where the die-hards were holed up. I’d give the guy below me a certain kick, and he’d start spraying. Some Japs would run out on fire screaming, some shooting, and our machine gunner would try to finish them off. I kept wishing the bastards would surrender, but we knew they wouldn’t. No heroes, no glory… just death. Then I went stateside and had to live through it all over again. I was in a movie theater watching the news reels they put on before the movie, and it dawned on me that I’d been filmed on Saipan. I even recognized my tank name and number. I felt like I was going to puke."
He had never opened up like that before, so moments passed before I remembered the original question.
"So what’s that got to do with the Salvation Army?"
"Oh yeah, them. Sometimes it seemed like they were the only ones who gave a damn about us. They had the guts to come right out to the front – with the snipers and all – and hand out things we could actually use, like a hot cup of coffee or a clean pair of socks. Little stuff, I guess, but it meant a lot to us out there. And most of the money you give ’em gets to the people they’re trying to help. That’s not true with a lot of big-name charities. Real low overhead. They’re frugal; like me."
"Your not frugal, you’re just tight – I saw the dust come out of your wallet when you opened it."
"Mind the shift lever, son…" he said, as he slammed fourth gear into my knee.
It’s been decades since the Colonel passed away, and I still miss my favorite Marine. A few months ago I found what is likely to be the newsreel he saw. It is on an episode of WORLD WAR II IN HD called DAY OF DAYS. I also looked up the type of tank. It was an outdated Stuart that had the main gun removed and replaced by a Ronson flamethrower. It was nicknamed the SATAN. Sherman knew what he was talking about.
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