When Don and I moved to Ft. Bliss, Texas in October, 1982 we were sad to move so far away from our families in the South. So you can imagine how happy we were when we found out a few months later that my sister and brother-in-law, Keith, were also going to be stationed at Ft. Bliss.
Keith was homesick as soon as he moved to El Paso. He was a country boy through and through, and gave up his long hair and beard when he signed up with Uncle Sam. It was summer when they arrived. Somehow... and I can't remember exactly how, but Keith found out that we had a copy of "Christmas in Dixie", the record by the group, Alabama. He took that record home and played it with tears streaming down his cheeks. In the middle of summer. My sister told me.
That Christmas Eve in 1983 was a blistering cold day with single digit temperatures. It was also the day of the Sun Bowl and Don and Keith had tickets to go to the game. They came in that evening half-frozen, but pumped from having seen Alabama beat SMU. After all, they got to see Coach Ray Perkins and had their pictures taken with a group of Bama fans (the picture ended up in the newspaper). My brother-in-law said that they missed half the game trying to stay warm. The concession stands even ran out of hot cocoa. Still, if you can't be in Alabama, the next best thing is seeing your favorite team play football.
Keith didn't make the Army his career and got out after his tour of duty and went back home to work in an auto parts store. He got an opportunity to advance his career in management and took a job in Birmingham. Seven months later he was killed in a random act of violence on his way home from work. He was 30 years old.
I can't listen to "Christmas in Dixie" to this day without thinking about my brother-in-law and the good and decent man that he was.