In late September of 1945, 1st Army Sgt. Phillip Radcliff of the 29th Infantry Division left the military, along with two fingers from his left hand, in Normandy. He took with him an honorable discharge, Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, shrapnel in his left leg and a 1943 Willys MB (more commonly known as a Jeep). The latter he had shipped back to the states.
The vehicle was garage-kept, in pristine mechanical condition. Its only unrepaired and preserved fault were seven bullet holes along the driver’s side panel and front fender. These were kept as a reminder that in the grand scheme, losing two fingers wasn’t that bad. It made appearances in Veteran and Memorial Day parades and the occasional VA-sponsored car show.
In 1974 it was passed along to Pvt. 2nd class Herbert Radcliff following his return from service in the Vietnam conflict, who continued to keep it in proper running order for nearly two decades… until cancer did for him what war could not.The heirloom passed on to his only child, Phil Radcliffe (named after his grandfather).
Phil never knew military service and wasn’t mechanically inclined, but still he maintained the old warhorse as best he could. It became a weekend hobby until shortly after the dawn of the new millennium when he lost his wife due to complications of childbirth. Now a single father of an infant daughter, Nancy Radcliff (after her mother), there was time for little else.
Years later, bright young Nancy was graduating with honors, a full scholarship, promising future and all the love and devotion a father could give. Some money had been squirreled away for her education, but as Phil knew, it was never enough. It was in the days following her graduation that he came upon an idea to help out a bit more and further her education in the process. That afternoon he presented Nancy with the Jeep.
But before handing over the title he asked her to humor him and take it to the used car lot downtown to see how much they’d offer her for it. So Nancy went to the used car lot, and when she returned told him they’d offered $1,000 but only in trade, since it was old and hard to find parts for. Next he asked her to take it to the Military surplus/pawn shop to see if they’d make a better offer.
When she returned she disdainfully told him they’d only give $500 and use it as a display piece out front. Finally he asked her to take it down by the VA car club and see if any of them were interested. She returned with a huge grin. Some people at the club had offered $50,000 for it, saying it was an iconic Jeep rich with history and sought by many collectors.
Smiling, Phil bestowed this wisdom upon his daughter, “The right place values you the right way. If you are not valued, do not be angry, it means you are in the wrong place. Those who know your value are those who appreciate you… Never stay in a place where no one sees your value.”
With this he handed over the Jeep’s worn title and asked his daughter what she had decided to do.
Taking it and a hug, Nancy told him that while she was out she’d stopped by a few other places.
She had gone over to the local military history museum. After hearing the Jeep’s backstory they’d love to have it as a donated piece to their WWII D-Day exhibition. Because some people value you for the acts of selfless generosity and kindness you bestow.
Next she’d taken it by Neil Fitzpatrick’s place. He was an old war buddy of Grandpa Herb’s and had spent many a weekend sharing a 6-pack under the old Jeep’s hood. He said he could give $5,000 for it for old-time’s sake. You see, sometimes people value you for valuing them and respecting their memories.
Phil smiled at his daughter’s kind heart, and then asked which she’d decided to do. She quietly responded, “Neither.”
She was going to keep the Jeep. She’d finish restoring it and make it her own. Because you can never earn or prove your value to others until you’ve learned to value yourself.
(This week’s HCWT was inspired in part by various online stories.)
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