The man in the little red truck

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 15, 2013

On a recent Tuesday at 2 in the afternoon, I stood with many folks at our National Cemetery, which is located adjacent to the Veterans Administration Hospital, to honor one of our own. It was an impressive ceremony to say the least. We all stood silently. The sun was bright, and a soft wind had Old Glory standing tall as the funeral contingent came into sight and made its way up the winding hill to a special arbor of honor. The procession was led by the Patriot Guard.
Special Honor Guard units dispatched from Fort Bragg were standing at attention, waiting to honor one of their own. All was silent as the casket was removed from the hearse and placed on the pedestal. The second Honor Guard was called to attention, ordered to present arms and then ordered to fire. Three volleys were heard. Seven rifles all spoke at once. So very fitting for the men of the Green Beret. Another moment of silence and then “Taps” was played.
As active and retired military both stood at attention, with flags at their best, this haunting music filled the air. I knew without a doubt I was standing in a place of honor.
The chaplain stepped forward. He immediately began roll call. As names were read out, each responded with a solemn, “Yes, sir. Here, sir.” Several names were called and, as if reporting for duty, they all stepped out silently from the crowd. Then the name of Command Sgt. Major Hugh Teague was called.
No answer. Only silence. The call was made a second time, then a third. Again, there was no answer. Silence. The chaplain then said, “Command Sgt. Major Hugh Teague did not answer — for he has gone. He has answered God’s eternal call and we are here to honor his life.”
The chaplain proceeded with the service. There was not a dry eye in the crowd. As the service closed, the Honor Guard folded the American flag with military precision and presented it to Jo Teague, his wife of 60-plus years.
As I was saying goodbye to a longtime friend and standing in the presence of thousands of graves marked with white marble headstones of other great Americans who had gone before him, I knew I was standing in a place of great honor. It was a most glorious day.
Yes, we will all miss Command Sgt. Major Hugh Teague, a member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces and the elite Green Berets. Hugh had quit high school in the 11th grade to join the military. He had risen to the highest rank afforded an enlisted soldier — that of command sergeant major. Hugh Teague had found his calling. He was one of our country’s best.
When Hugh retired from the military in 1978, he returned home. However, he did not stop serving. Serving was in his blood and his DNA. He just changed his mission. He began serving his God by helping others.
Oh, I must mention that he bought a little red Ford truck. And you guessed it; he had it loaded with American flags. As he flew up and down the roads in Rowan County, you could tell he was a proud veteran and patriot. And he had his favorite co-pilot right next to him as he traveled — his wife, Jo. He was one that dearly loved his family, friends, neighbors and his country.
When he heard that a planeload of troops was returning to Fort Bragg from the war zone, Hugh was there. He was there to meet new recruits — to wish them Godspeed as they departed for parts unknown. He was there to meet returning wounded warriors, giving them hope and encouragement. He was there to comfort the military families when their soldiers did not return.
Hugh’s mission of service was not just for the military. He could be found taking food to the shut-ins, helping widows with household repairs, mowing their lawns, carrying others to doctor appointments, sitting up with the sick. You name it and Hugh did it. Hugh was a seven-days-a-week caregiver.
So, if you are ever down at Fort Bragg, throw out the name of Command Sgt. Major Hugh Teague. I think you might be surprised. Hugh was a known entity on this sprawling military base and will remain so.
Why else would the Commander at Bragg send two of their elite Honor Guard units to honor one of their own?
Hugh was simply the Best.

Paul E. Fisher of Salisbury is chairman and CEO of F&M Bank.