I am not any kind of a professional writer, but I thought today might be an appropriate day to share. This little story was written by me as part of a letter to the grandchildren of my wife's older brother, Monroe Stanley (1924-1999). I felt that they needed to know in the years to come that even though he was not a famous man, their Grandpa was a true American patriot and was a very great man. Monroe Enters Heaven A man nears the heavenly gate, his steps slow and somewhat faltering as he carefully places his feet on the rough-hewn stones of the path. He lifts a hand to shade his eyes, his fingers brushing the sparse white hair. The knots on the joints of the fingers at his brow are red and swollen from rheumatism, and the muscles of the arm are slack. He sees the bell pull, and he grasps the rope lightly in his frail hand, sending the summoning sound inside the gate. The heavy oak door opens on well-oiled hinges and a round young face peers out at the old man. "Yes, Can I help you?" the angel assigned to the door asks. "Well, uh, I hope so. I'm reporting here because my life is over down there." Monroe says. "I see. Well, give me your name and I will check you out." "Monroe Stanley from Oklahoma. That's in the USA." "Yes, yes, I know where Oklahoma is." the angel replies busily. "Wait here if you please and I will be back in a moment." The door closes and Monroe shuffles, looking about at the gold-colored stones in the wall and in the walk. The door re-opens and the young angel is back. "Please come with me if you will. They say they have been expecting you." Monroe enters the gate and follows the angel, the walkway now smooth and bright, almost iridescent. The duo travels through a lush garden, then into a covered walkway leading to a door. Opening the door, the angel speaks to a second angel seated at the desk, "OK, here is Monroe Stanley. He is all yours." The young angel leaves and Monroe looks at the angel behind the desk. He is bearded, winged, and is sitting with his name plate showing: PETER. Flushing a bit, Monroe nervously waits for the angel to speak. Peter looks up and down the stooped figure before him, then looks at the large book open on the desk before him. Running his finger along the page, Peter stops, then looks up. "Monroe Stanley, eh? Well, let's see what we have here on you. Mmmmm--- let's see---unhuh, well, Monroe, it says here that you were born into a rather poor family. That right?" "Well, I guess, uh, sir, yes." Monroe stammered. "And you worked as a child, watering the crops, lifting buckets of water from a deep well and carrying the buckets of water, milking the cows, and delivering furniture for money to give to your folks?" Peter's eyes bore into Monroe. "Well, uh, yes sir, we all worked hard and my folks needed the money." Looking down, Peter pauses, then looks up. "You were somewhat of a baseball player in your youth I see. What position did you play?" "Uh, catcher, sir." "You were good enough to play professionally, but you never did. Why not?" "Well, sir, I just graduated from high school and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and, well, I just felt like I needed to help out so I enlisted in the Marine Corps, sir" "How old were you when you went in the Corps?" "Uh, 17, sir." "And you spent your term of service where?" "Uh, well, after basic at Camp Pendleton in California we shipped out to the Pacific, sir." "Tell me a little about what you did when you got there, son." "Well, I was with the 3rd Corps, 23rd Regiment, and we hit the beaches. Iwo Jima was the worst. That was 28 days and nights of living ****, sir." "Hand to hand combat, snipers, mortars, rain, heat, bugs, rotting bodies, stench, you had it all didn't you?" Peter asked. "Yessir, we did. I was lucky though; many of my buddies didn't make it through. We left a lot of young men on those islands." Another silent moment while Peter reads. "When you came home you had over $800 accumulated in your service pay. What did you do with all that money? Go on a nice spree?" "Well, uh, sir, no, uh, I knew my Daddy was real sick and going to die soon and my Mom was going to have 6 little kids to raise by herself, so I, uh, decided to use the money to buy a laundry for the family, sir." "And you gave up your chance to go to college so you could help to look after the little ones I see here." Silence. Peter reads. He looks up. "Well, you married your sweetheart and started your own business. And raised your children to know right from wrong and how to be men." "Well, I was lucky to have such a wonderful girl to marry and be so blessed by God, with the kids I loved so much." "Yes, the boss does allow humans to have their greatest wish at times. He is funny that way." Peter says. "But then I see that all did not go so smoothly. You had business reverses and troubles, and people who had made assurances to you did not perform as promised, and your business failed." "Uh, yes, that did happen. I was not smart enough to know what the future held and my family suffered because of my failure." "Mmmmmmmm, well, I see that you refused to take the easy way out, and that you worked for years to pay off in full every debt that you owed." "Uh, well, I didn't think it was right to tell a person that I would do a thing and then not do it. I always believed that the word of a man was his bond, and that if I said I would do it, I thought I should. Uh, do it, I mean." "Well, that is an admirable sentiment Monroe, but, to be honest with you, we don't see a whole lot of that kind of thinking today. But you did say you were a United States Marine didn't you? Hmmmmmm." Another pause. The frail figure stands silently before the angel, waiting. "Now, let's see, you were a veteran who had been injured in the service of your country, but I see that you never did apply for welfare and food stamps or ask for help and a handout. Why did you not take advantage of these resources that so many have?" "Well, uh, I just decided that my children would be better off learning to rely on themselves and not go running for a handout every time things got a little tough." Peter gazes into the man's eyes, a small smile flitting and leaving. He returns to the book. "Now I see that you went into schools and meetings to talk about your country's flag and the importance of a patriotic attitude among your people. Not only did you do this, but you did it at a time when this viewpoint was most unpopular with some film stars and future presidents." "Uh, well, I, uh, just thought that, uh, if my country gave me freedom and liberty, well, uh, then, I had a duty to return that honor by showing my allegiance and loyalty to my nation. And the mightiest symbol of my country being my flag, why, uh, I just thought that, uh, I, uh, could maybe help some people, especially the young people, to realize that liberty is not cheap, and freedom is never without cost. I hoped to help folks to realize that, uh, maybe, uh, that burning our flag, and spitting on our flag, and throwing our flag on the ground and stomping it in the mud was not the best way to assure continuance of the rights that allowed them to, uh, do that in the first place." Peter gazes at the old man. His eyes travel over the weary frame, the wispy hair, the gnarled knuckles, the steady eyes. "Well, I think I have heard just about enough. Why don't you come on with me and we will go up and meet the boss." Peter rises from the stool, walks ahead toward the inner door, looking back over his shoulder and says, "Come on now." The two walk to the door, and Peter knocks once. The door swings open into the bright beyond. The light fills the enormous room, and Monroe averts his eyes as he follows his leader. They come to the base of the golden throne, upon which sits a man with the most radiant and most compassionate face Monroe has ever seen. The beatific smile shines round them, and Monroe is both exhilarated and cowed. "Hello Monroe." the deep voice booms, filling the room. Monroe raises his eyes, squinting into the light. "Uh, hello sir, uh, how are you?" he stammers. "Doing just fine thanks. Glad you could make it, my friend. We have been watching for you for some time now." the figure says from the throne. "You knew I was, uh, on my way here?" God chuckles. "Oh my yes, I knew that your work for me on earth was coming to an end, and I wanted to bring you on home." He turns to Peter. "What is your recommendation Peter?" Peter bows, then speaks, looking at Monroe. "He is a keeper sir. The few little piddling sins that he was so worried about don't amount to anything when you see his whole life. He has lived a good life, he has always been faithful, and he always tried to do what is right." God looks at Monroe. Peter clears his throat. "And one other thing sir." "Yes. What is that?" "He is a United States Marine." God turns his gaze fully on the man before him. His eyes bore into the frail figure with an intense, laser-like brilliance. The bent figure begins to straighten, the bowed back stiffens, the shoulders coming back, the head filling with hair, the skin smoothing and muscles rounding. The eyes clear, the wounds heal, the gnarls vanish. The clothing metamorphasizes from denim and polyester to a raiment from the past, and within a minute the handsome young man standing at attention before the throne is clothed in the full dress blues of a United States Marine. God comes down off his throne and takes Monroe's hand, shaking it firmly. "Welcome to Heaven, Monroe. You have been a good and faithful servant. Let me walk you to your section and introduce you to some old friends." "Uh, sir, uh, where are we going?" "Oh, you don't know do you? Well, see up there? Way up there? Up there near the sun? On that highest golden rampart? That's where you are going my son. That is where I keep my Marines." And Monroe walks with God into eternity.