There’s this old Little Feat song that Lowell George wrote. It’s been covered a number of times. Right now, I’ve got a Steve Earle version of it in my CD player. The chorus is the kind of poetry I like to hear.

I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari

Tehachapi to Tonopah

Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made

Driven the backroads so I wouldn’t get weighed

And if you give me weed, whites and wine

And you show me a sign

And I’ll be willin’ to be movin’

It is–on its face–a truck driving song. But more than that, it is a traveler’s mantra. And probably a little more than that.

The song’s little burgs are more than alliteration. They symbolize the towns that are more departure points than destinations. Yet the song’s driver has seen them all.

Tonopah, NV is an old silver mining town halfway between Reno and Vegas. It is surrounded by ghost towns. It’s a place you will likely never drive through, let alone stop to visit. In fact, it probably could’ve gone the rest of this year without a single mention in a newspaper outside of Nevada…if it weren’t for one man.

Marine 2nd Lt. Frederick E. Pokorney Jr. graduated from Tonopah High in 1989. He was a high school football player, the kind that was good enough to play, but not good enough to play outside Tonopah. So, he joined the Marines.

He died Sunday in an Iraqi ambush near An Nasiriyah.

The young Marine was a traveler who was, in short, willin’.

We all tend to assign some greater meaning to songs that were more than likely written to just be sung. But as I drive home tonight, I’ll probably think of that guy from Tonopah.

If anything, it helps me remember that however we feel about the war, it shouldn’t cloud how we feel about the people who fight it. They come from the forgotten towns that we all ran away from. Their travels just took them to a different place.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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