The Story of Neal Snell, Killed in World War II:
Picture if you will a red Coca-Cola truck rumbling along a gravel road on a hot South Alabama morning not really so long ago. In the little town of Asbury, everybody knew everybody and everybody knew 25-year-old Neal Snell. He was the Coca-Cola man. He was married to a sweetheart of a woman named Beth, and they had a beautiful little girl with a curly Shirley Temple mane named Theresa. It was 1943 and WWII was something townsfolk and the rest of the world lived and died for every day. As a boy, Neal dreamed of being a pilot. Years later, in a box hidden away in an attic, there are still-filled notebooks with drawings of planes. One summer he even took flying lessons. Secret flying lessons which he kept secret until one day his parents came to an airfield where Neal's cousin was waiting. "Where is Neal?" they asked. The cousin pointed toward a small plane in the wild blue yonder and said, "He's up there. He's up there!"
When he was drafted into the United States Marines in 1943, he probably thought it wasn't quite fair that he couldn't go into the Army Air Force. But he complained to no one. After basic training, his young wife and daughter moved to a tiny apartment to live with him in Laguna Beach, California. Together they swam in the ocean and built sandcastles and had a birthday party for their three-year-old daughter, Theresa. For the little family from Alabama, it was like a vacation. But, like all vacations, it had to end. And it did when Neal got his orders. He was being sent to Hawaii to await transfer to another island. An island called Iwo Jima. They said their goodbyes, and mother and daughter drove back to Alabama.
The telegram came on a beautiful, sunny Alabama afternoon. The Western Union man had the unbearable task of taking it to the family. He took it to Neal's father who was working at the hardware store in Asbury. He was devastated. A little while later, Neal's father and other family members took the short drive out to Neal's house to tell the horrible news to his young wife and daughter. His daughter, Theresa, still barely remembers that day. Mother was in the kitchen making fudge when the car came up the driveway. She knew why they were there and she fell apart. A little while later, she took me out on the porch and the two of us just sat out there. Just us. We were alone.