I have a successful dental practice in a relatively remote location in Northwest Arkansas — a resort-retirement community. My office has three treatment rooms, each one decorated with pleasant pictures, to put patients at ease. The Cal State Fullerton room pays homage to my undergraduate years and I still follow this school’s sports teams online, especially baseball.
One day, Preston was welcomed to this shrine. He asked if I’d gone to school there and when. He shared that he had grown up there knowing another “Bushay.” Before we knew it, he was making a connection to my family.
I was skeptical until he said he knew my dad AND his brother, Brent.
Byron and Brent were only 11 months apart. Preston said he didn’t remember Dad having any girlfriends in school (he and Mom got married before graduation). But he recalled Brent having several and that rang true.
He mentioned that both brothers seemed to know the principal well! He remembered Dad joining the Army soon after high school and the newspaper article about his death. And even my Dad’s program to have seeds sent to him in Vietnam for distribution to farmers.
Even though I was running way behind on the day’s appointments, I just pulled up a chair and settled in for a good chat. Preston knew my Dad from first grade on.
He said he might be able to locate his yearbooks, which could have pictures I’ve never seen. Over 49 years after Dad’s death and 1,576 miles from where I was born, I got to know more about Staff Sergeant Byron Haley Bushay, who died as a result of friendly fire in 1966 during the Vietnam War when he was only 22. Everything I knew about this 11F-Infantry Operations and Intelligence Specialist I got from my Mom and official documents. I wasn’t quite two years old when he died.
Preston is the only person outside of my family that I have ever met who knew my dad. Now I have a bigger picture of my Father from a complete stranger who just happened to need a dentist in a little corner of Arkansas. What are the chances of that happening?
By T. Bushay