Sgt. Strawman enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the young age of 17 in 1940. Hayword, to help provide for his struggling family,convinced his parents to sign for him to enlist a year before his eighteenth birthday to pursue his dream of becoming a Marine.
From the time he was very young, Hayword and his family celebrated all of the patriotic holidays as best they could, and each night before dinner, they gave thanks to those who had served as his father and grandfather before him. Hayword and his brothers played soldiers when his chores were complete, and he and his siblings had come in from the fields. Hayword worked on a tree limb all winter long, cutting, carving, and sanding to make it look like a rifle. He treasured his rifle and slept with it under his bed. Sgt. Hayword's mother, Rose, shooed him away when he started to ask his father questions about the war as they gathered as a family around the radio after dinner to listen to the news. Although he didn't talk about it much, Hayword's father served in WWI - the Great War. Even at such a young age, Hayword knew the war had left a profound mark on his dad, a certainty he would come to know himself after his service.
Years later, in a foxhole, dripping with homesickness, now married, Hayword wondered if the folks back home cared about the men who were serving in the trenches. After writing a letter to his wife filled with "don't worry" and "miss you" scattered about the page, Hayword penned a letter to his father. The note simply said, thank you, Dad, I understand.
Hayword came home from the war, having given his right leg. He gave his leg. It would be silly to say he lost it because he knows down to the inch where it was taken from him by a mortar round. Nonetheless, Hayword came home to his bride Rosie, and they started a family. Hayword and Rosie joined their local American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary to help promote patriotism and support in their community. In those days, there was a Veteran in almost every home, at least two on every block. As their children grew, Hayword and Rosie noticed a change in young people. No longer was it normal to see children playing soldiers or waving the flag at the town's July 4th parade? The tide was turning, and Hayword wasn't sure why and if it was a good thing.
Hayword and Rosie set out to raise their children understanding the principles of America, freedom, working hard, and loving thy neighbor with the hope they would continue the tradition. It might wear off on other kids in the neighborhood.
In 1967, Hayword and Rosie's oldest son, BALEy, followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps and joined the Marine Corps to serve his country. Little did BALEy know how well he would understand the silent moments he remembered while listening to the evening radio as the announcer talked about the war in Korea and escalating tensions with communists in Vietnam, that he too would pen a letter home to his mom and dad, simply saying, "I love you. I'm fine. I understand."
In 1985, Hayword and Rosie were with BALEy and his wife when they welcomed a new granddaughter, HAYly. HAYly was full of grit from the time she was born and never saw a tree too high to climb or a running race she would shy away from. It seemed natural for HAYly just as it was for her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather to join the Marines, and that is what she did. Hayley studied every day, worked hard, and became a helicopter pilot. Hayword was so proud until one day he received a letter from his granddaughter saying, "I love you, I'm fine, but I don't understand". Hayword realized his fear from way back about declining patriotism had come true. HAYly wondered why newspapers, shows, and coverage from home were filled with protests against the military. Don't misunderstand; HAYly was proud to be serving to protect Americans' first amendment right to free speech. Still, she couldn't understand why opposition to the war had turned into disdain for American Troops. After all, the Troops don't decide where to go; they follow orders. They joined the military for a variety of reasons, mainly because they wanted to serve their country. It was then that Hayword decided action was needed and set about to increase patriotism in America once again.
Every patriotic holiday Hayword and Rosie were front and center in parades, ceremonies, and presentations. They took advantage of every opportunity to share their love for the country with anyone who was in earshot.
Today is no different. Hayword continues to serve America by helping his fellow Veterans as a Battle Buddy with United Military Care. He makes weekly visits and phone calls to ensure his buddies are doing ok and know they have not been forgotten. Hayword believes in the program so much that he decided to sit outside in the elements for an entire month at the Marietta Square to remind people that America and her Troops need us now more than ever.
You can visit Hayword through October 31st at the square; he is sitting alone under a tree with a flag flying over his head, his Marine Corps Veteran hat proudly on his head. If he goes silent, he is remembering the cost of war, our Veterans, and the lack of support they have seen. If you want to learn more about Hayword and his Battle Buddy endeavors or United Military Care, just ask Hayword. Pick up the phone and call us at United Military Care, 770-973-0014 or visit us online at www.unitedmilitarycare.org and we will assist as best we can.
No hungry, homeless, or forgotten Veterans!