My Brush with History

Two Handshakes Away

October 2017

My mother loved parades and early on imbued me with a love of same. An incident at one sticks in my mind. I believe it was in 1926 or 1927. I can’t be sure as I was only a small boy then.

While standing on the curb in Newark, New Jersey, watching a Decoration Day parade pass by, I found myself near a group of seven or eight ancient Civil War veterans. I looked over their beards, their blue Grand Army of the Republic coats and broadbrimmed campaign hats, and I wished I could grow a beard like one of theirs. One old soldier called, “Sonny, come over here,” and “Sonny” obediently did. He said, “Shake my hand,” and I did. “Now,” he said, “you’re only two handshakes from the Revolution.” When he was about my age, six or seven, he had shaken hands with a veteran of that war.

I fully intend someday to pass on this membership in an exclusive club to another young hand. He’ll be three shakes from the great event. We certainly are a young country.

--John Clark Alberts, Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force (Ret)