A few weeks ago we celebrated Veterans’ Day. Well, I’m doing a follow-up post. You see, Roy and Dale had a son in the Army. He died in Germany in 1965 at the age of 18. John David “Sandy” Rogers is the smaller boy in uniform in the picture above.
Although Sandy and Dusty were the same age, Sandy was much smaller. He had been severely abused as a child and sustained brain damage as a result. Roy and Dale adopted him shortly after they lost Elizabeth Robin. Sandy had difficulty doing normal things, like riding a tricycle and climbing ladders, but he never gave up.
He had a lot of trouble in school and couldn’t seem to keep up. So, Roy and Dale enrolled both the boys in a military school. The first school didn’t turn out very well, but the second one was great. In the early 1960s, the Rogers family took a vacation to Hawaii. While on the island, Sandy was exposed to hundreds of Marines and other Military personnel. Sandy had always loved playing with small plastic “Army Men”, and this experience pushed him closer to the Army. Despite his struggles with school, Sandy managed to pass the exams and signed up for the Army. He was deemed unsuitable for Vietnam and was sent to Germany.
Sandy worked hard and soon gained the rank of Private First Class. It was during the party afterwards (celebrating Sandy and some other men who had achieved the rank) that Sandy met his demise. Some of the men urged Sandy to “drink like a man” to prove that he was worthy of the rank. Sandy fell for the dare and overdosed on alcohol. He died sometime between 4 and 8 a.m. the following morning.
Just as she did after Elizabeth Robin died, Dale wrote a book commemorating Sandy’s life. Salute to Sandy was published in 1967. Sandy’s story is interspersed with the story of Roy and Dale’s trip to Vietnam after their son’s death. They went to encourage the soldiers, but it seems that they received far more than what they gave. All of the soldiers who had known Sandy wanted to share stories of the boy’s dedication and hard work.
This book is astounding. Dale’s faith through the loss of three children is expressed clearly in its pages. While there are some sad parts, the book shares a lot of the more joyful times of Sandy’s life. His mischievous pranks, his knack for getting into trouble, it’s all in there as only his mother could tell. Salute to Sandy is a special story of a special boy, and one that is well worth reading.