The rains in El Paso sweeten the air and moisten the desert sand into a rich chocolate color. But when it storms out here and the winds whip, it’s best to go inside and wait it out. And that’s what most people did last year when a storm hit the area, knocking down trees and causing flooding in low-lying areas, especially along the banks of the Rio Grande.
One man chose to go outside, though. You see, he saw that the winds had knocked down a flagpole, the American flag soaking on asphalt. So he did what any true American would do: he picked up the dripping flag and proceeded to properly fold it the way a pair of soldiers do at a military funeral – not knowing that a security camera was rolling.
The next morning, before that flag had even dried off, Augustus James Bozarth, homeless, became a hero to the nation; his story making it’s way from local newscasts to Yahoo News and beyond. With this selfless act, Bozarth came though for a country that seemed to be ignoring him, fascinating us in the process and making many people proud.
It’s safe to say that nobody was prouder than brothers Mack, Robbie, and Paul Rosales along with my older brother, Steven, and I. The five of us, longtime friends, affectionately knew Augustus James Bozarth as “Rambo,” because he lived in the desert like some Survivor contestant when we first met him. He took a liking to us and made up a story about how he was a security guard in order to keep coming back to the Rosales’ glass shop, located in an industrial business park near the airport.
Rambo would indulge us with stories about spaceships and how aliens were constantly watching us. He became a regular, participating in our endless quest to constantly crack on each other. He even let me make him the centerpiece in a feature story I wrote about 10 years ago, a day-in-the-life piece not too many people read.
“Hey ugly!” he’d greet me with a childish smile, his blue eyes seemed to pierce through the dirt and grime that embedded every line and wrinkle on his face.
Over the years Rambo not only hung out with my friends, he became a family fixture. He’d soon get to know my friends’ kids, attending birthday parties and other functions. In fact, for the past 21 years Rambo attended Thanksgiving dinner and celebrated other holidays. If Rambo needed a place to stay, there was always a foldaway at the glass shop he could use.
About a year or so after our pal became a national hero, I got word from Paul that Rambo had died. He was found near that same industrial park, faithfully keeping watch over the place while caring for his cats, strays he had found over the years and managed to feed.
The man we hailed a hero last year now lies in the county morgue, where for the past several weeks officials have been waiting for his next of kin to claim him. If nobody does, Rambo would most likely get a pauper’s funeral, which usually consists of an unmarked grave. As of this writing, no next of kin has been found.
“Rambo always went to all my family functions and loved being with the kiddos,” Paul texted me last night. “They (the children) loved him dearly and he loved playing with them.”
“They saw him for who he truly was, a nice man.”
The five of us, along with our families, want to try and do Rambo right. Once the county gives up its quest to find a next of kin, we want to try and give Rambo the sendoff he deserves. A fund has been established at a local bank and anyone wanting to make a donation is encouraged to do so by responding to this blog with your contact information. Or you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll make sure you get that information.
I also encourage you to share this blog post with everyone you think may have heard about the flag story, because in my opinion, Rambo was a hero for what he did when nobody else was watching…or so he thought. And a hero deserves to buried with the same respect he showed our country on that stormy night last year.