Friday, November 2, 2012

American Heroes: Meeting Veteran Lyle Green

Meeting Lyle Green

Jodi Orgill Brown

November 2, 2012, Approx 1:30 – 1:50 pm

I met the most amazing man today. I stopped at the Wells Fargo Bank branch in Roy, Utah, and as I was walking into the bank, I noticed an older gentleman walking toward the door, wearing a “U.S. Air Force Veteran” hat.
I looked at him and said, “You are a veteran. Thank you for serving our country.”
He quickly grabbed my hand, shook it, looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re welcome”. He then grabbed out his wallet and pulled out a few laminated photos and showed me a much younger man, in uniform, serving in the Korean War. He flipped through the pictures and said a word or two about each, then placed them back in their appropriate well-worn spot in his wallet.

He asked if I had any family members in the military and I replied that my brother and father-in-law had both served in the U.S. Marine Corps. I told him that one of the proudest days of my life was when I went to Camp Pendleton with my parents, sisters and brothers, and we watched as my brother “graduated” from boot camp and became a United States Marine.  I hardly recognized my brother that day, he had turned from a scrawny kid into a strapping, responsible military man. I smiled at the memory.

I looked at him and said “thank you” again, and he nodded with a look of gratitude. It’s funny because he had a look of thanks, yet I was trying to show my gratitude to him.

He then went to grab the handle of the door for me, but I got there first and opened the door for him.

He stood behind me in line at the bank and I chatted casually with the teller while doing normal Friday payday business. In a moment, the veteran was there again, a few feet away from me at the next teller station.

“Hi, Mr. Green,” the teller greeted him, by name, from behind the counter.
When we were both free and waiting for our transactions to be completed, I leaned over and asked him if he ever got together with his old Air Force buddies on Veteran’s Day. His eyes lit up again and he replied that he did, and he saw them at other times when he could, at least those who were still around.

“Lost a bunch of ‘em in the war,” he said, the last few words trailing off as he spoke.

Then he looked up at me and said, “Hey, I’ve got something in my car I want to give you. Will you wait for me before you leave?”
I replied that I would see him outside. A moment later, he appeared and we walked together to his car. I could see through the window that the entire back seat of the car was covered in bags that held tightly rolled posters.  He spoke to me as he opened the car and carefully took one out and unrolled it, placing it flat against the car window.

“After the war, I came home and there was no real proof I was even there, other than a few pictures. A couple of years went by and my daughter was doing a report and I realized she didn’t even know about her country, the country I served and almost died for.”
I was in awe as I saw a beautiful high photo-quality poster in red, white and blue, covered in pictures of United States Presidents, currency, states, maps and facts. It was truly incredible.

“That’s when I decided to make this poster, so kids like my daughter will know who we are and what we fight for. I spent eight months straight doing all the research to include on here.”
What happened next showed how much I needed the reminder this man brought into my life.

He got excited and started to point at a picture on the poster, “I marked all the presidents who died in office, and those who were assassinated in office. President William Harrison wouldn’t wear a hat at his inauguration, even though the weather was terrible. He was put into office and died thirty days later, many think because an illness he caught on inauguration day. ” He then proceeded to tell me about how each president died or was killed. He told me that President Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Harrison, and noted the father/son presidents, as well.
With just as much enthusiasm, he pointed to each of the dollar bills that have ever circulated, and some that haven’t circulated, out of the U.S. Mint. He told the stories of how individuals who had never been president ended up on the currency, an honor usually reserved for presidents.

“Benjamin Franklin was one of the only core writers and signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (along with Washington, Madison and others) who didn’t go on to be president, but he did serve as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and they wanted to honor him for his service, so they stuck him on the $100 bill.”
“All bills above the $100 bill were taken out of print in 1969 because there was too much counterfeit and fraud. The $10,000 bill featured a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, of Chase Bank, and he was never a president either, nor was Alexander Hamilton, but he was killed in a duel when Aaron Burr put a bullet in his head and his political friends wanted to honor his service as the first Secretary of the Trearuery so they put him on, too. The $100,000 bill has a portrait of Woodrow Wilson, but it was never put into print.”

“I wonder if they ever created a million dollar bill? I called and asked around and was told ‘no’, but then one day a lady showed up at Walmart and tried to cash a million dollar bill. They arrested her and later I called and asked what happened to the bill.”
Then he pulled out his wallet yet again and brought out a laminated copy of the fake one million dollar bill. It was stunning and incredibly realistic.

“She had it all right, too, except too little words in the fine print ‘non-negotiable’. Everything else was right, it even had Alexander Hamilton’s signature on it. Pretty incredible. But, when she pulled it out and asked for cash back, that’s when they got her.”

I chimed in, “Well, if any store could have cashed a million dollar bill, it would be Walmart, wouldn’t it?”
My friendly stranger and I just laughed.

He told me about travelling all over the country to get the rights to use photos of actual U.S. bills, for photos can be considered counterfeit copies. He said he visited Boy Scout headquarters to obtain permission to use Scout information, and told me that President Gerald Ford was the only Eagle Scout among all the Presidents, “but at least we have one.” He spent countless hours obtaining the rights to print the information on the poster, all so he could help the children learn about their country.

The man standing a foot away from me went on to point out facts and figures about state birds, mottos and state flags, including the fact that Georgia adopted a new state flag in 2003, because the original looked too much like Mississippi’s flag.
He mentioned that one of the first real states, never became a state, the District of Columbia, Washington D.C., named after George Washington himself.

This kindly man, who now stands no more than 5 feet five inches tall, told me about making this poster then going to schools all around and trying to get them to get the posters for their schools, so the youth in the United States will know who they are and what they stand for.
“Teachers tell me there are 4 years worth of school history classes on this one poster. I have gone around and talked to lots of students, mostly fifth grade classes now. I have given lectures and talked about the war and the information on the poster. They stand and sing the Air Force song to me. I like it, I’ve done it, but it’s wearing me out. I’m 76 years old now, a lot older than the guy you saw in those pictures. What’s your name, by the way?”

“My name is Jodi Brown, it is so very nice to meet you,” I responded.
“Green, Lyle Green,” he replied, then began to chuckle, “Green and Brown.”

“I have always like color names,” I chimed in, “growing up, two of my best friends were a Greene and a White. When I got married, I became a Brown and told them I finally belonged in their group. “
“Ha!” he laughed, then he told me a story of how he used to work for a guy named Black, and noted all the key players in a big deal, with the names of White, Blue and Brown. But the triumphant punchline was when they penned the paperwork with the last partner, “and guess what his name was? All-Red!”

We stood together and laughed out loud.

By this time, several cars had come and gone, and we kept excusing ourselves as we stood in the way. We both sensed our impromptu meeting was nearly over.
“If you know of anyone who wants a poster, here is my card. They tell me you sent them and I will give them a poster for only $5, they are normally $10.”

“I’d like to pay you for this one,” I piped up.
“No, your brother served in the Marines. Military can get one for free. He will like it, he will appreciate it.”

“I like it, and I think every family and every school should have one. Thank you,” I said and gently reached over and put my hand on his arm. “You are a very special man.”
“You also, are a special woman.”

“My daughter’s fifth grade class has been practicing, they are putting on a Veteran’s program, can I call you to come and attend?” I asked, picturing Lyle Green in my mind, standing in the room with the other veterans, as the children of Riverdale Elementary belt out the songs of each of the branches of the United State Armed Forces.

“If you call, I will come,” he said, as his head nodded in agreement.

And in that moment, I knew it was true. I will call my new friend and hero, and perhaps then I will get the chance to say, “Thank you” to Lyle Green, not just for a poster, but for changing my life and reminding me “that I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me!”

Happy Veteran’s Day to all the men and women who have proudly served our country.


  1. What a INCREDIBLE story and encounter with an amazing man! Even though our military time was short, it still makes me proud of all who serve(d). I would like a couple of these posters please. I'll let you know how many soon. Thanks Jodi for bringing tears and a warm feeling to my heart.

  2. Jodi,

    Thank you so much for sharing this special experience. I honestly was so touched and was definitely inspired. This is a great reminder of the wonderful things that can come to us by just saying 'thank you'. :)

    Also, I am glad that all went well in CA and that you are home recovering. Your family and you are always in my prayers. I love you!

    Do you have Green's contact information, because I would love to purchase a poster.

  3. This is amazing and incredible. Thank you so much for sharing--I'm in tears! I'm so glad you thanked him. I think that's one thing we can certainly do for our veterans and their families, is thank them for their service. It's something we're teaching our boys to do. I hope you'll share about his visit to your daughter's school. What a divine meeting. Love it!

  4. Looks like you had a pretty nice time. Enjoyed reading it, thank you.

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