I’m currently enrolled at FDLTCC. So far it’s had ups and downs much like everything in life. Some would ask why a 49 year-old person is going to school. I have been asked why I chose FDLTCC.
When my father, Archie Horton Sr., was alive, he had a very good friend named
Tommy Legarde. Tommy was a proud Native American member of the Grand Portage Tribe (Gichi-Onigaming).
Tommy and my Dad coached boxing together at The Valley Youth Center in West Duluth, Minnesota. These two gentlemen had very rough adolescent years, and were very colorful characters because of it. They shared a bond like brothers, although they were not related by blood and were raised in very different cultures. Together these two men helped a lot of kids over their years working together.
Both of them were in recovery for alcohol addiction and they would often warn me about patterns they were noticing in my behavior. Being young and prideful, I didn’t take much heed in the advice they tried passing along. Yet they were both very patient with me.
When I was a senior at Denfeld High school in 1984 I had to be brought to the hospital by ambulance. I had a blood alcohol level of .47 and I had to have my stomach pumped and be placed on a respirator. Neither Tommy nor my Dad quit caring or stopped believing in me as a person.
My partying ways continued and would eventually lead me to enlist in the US Army to get out of town. I stayed in touch with my father and Tommy when I would make it home to visit my then girlfriend, Carinda. They would always gently warn me about my drinking and fighting. I was quickly spinning out of control and my temper was getting shorter.
Carinda had broken up with me due to my drinking behavior and I was quickly spinning out of control. I then got orders for Korea and I was more than willing to leave the country after my drinking had cost me the love of my life. So off to Korea I went.
My drinking worsened overseas and my unit was well known for being hard chargers on and off the job. A hard charger is well known for being ready for a drink or a fight. One day the mail clerk came up to my table during noon mess and said, “Hey Horton, you got some tree bark in the mailroom.” I had no idea what he was talking about, so after finishing my meal I went to the mailroom to see to what he was referring to. I was pleasantly surprised to find a post card made from birch bark from my friend, Tommy. It arrived at just the right time as my unit was headed to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. I was nervous about staying sober for the 90-day rotation. There is no drinking allowed with this type of duty.
Tommy would send many of these cards over the years. They seemed to arrive when I least expected, yet when I need them most. I was pulled out of class one day while attending military leadership course at Fort Lewis, Washington. My parents got a message that Tommy had passed away while at a boxing tournament. The Army wouldn’t let me leave school because Tommy was not my blood relative. I was not allowed to attend his funeral.
A short while later Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and I was being sent to Germany to deploy to Iraq with the 2AD (FWD) 1/41 Infantry Scout Platoon. Before I shipped out I came home and visited my folks. My Dad told me how Tommy’s spirit wasn’t resting in the cemetery and we had to go to an Indian ceremony in the cemetery to help Tommy make the journey to the land of the departed. My Dad was a very superstitious man and the thought of him in a cemetery made me smile. We both had a good laugh on how Tommy’s spirit was probably just messing with my dad for fun.
While I was in Iraq my platoon fell victim to fratricide from an Apache Helicopter. It was a horrific and chaotic night and I was petrified because I was out in the open after our unit was hit. The ammunition from a Bradley fighting vehicle continued to explode, what we considered cooking off, all night as a fellow soldier and I occupied a shallow fighting position. Two of my friends were killed that night and others were wounded.
During a time in that dreadful night Tommy’s spirit appeared to me in a vision. He sat on a rock near my foxhole and said, “Chuck, it will be alright.” I am in his gratitude for this because it got me through the worst night in my life. Tommy has passed away from my vision and I have not seen him since, but I hope he can see me now. I’m in an tribal college and I have been sober for close to 19 years. I have learned a lot about Tommy’s people and his heritage. I have also had great success in my boxing career as a coach and mentor, thanks to all that he and my Dad passed on to me. And now I am passing it on to others.