I was traveling on a back-country road to visit an old friend when I saw her.  She was just sitting there – her shiny exterior and beautifully graceful lines now hidden below rust, dirt, and bombs from passing birds – but she seemed to fit in with the dirty pink flamingo lying on its side in the yard, the broken birdbath, and the single-wide trailer that did not look much better than she did.

I knew I should just pass her by but I could not help myself – I had to stop.  I carefully pulled off on the side of the road and just looked at her.  She looked just like my first car.  As I sat there staring at her, memories began to flood my mind.

I had only had my driver’s license for a short time when I saw her on the used car lot.  I was walking to work and saving as much as possible so I could buy my first car.  The way the sun reflected off her blue exterior – the chrome bumpers polished to the point you could shave in them – the black cushioned seats that looked comfortable enough to take a nap – this was the one.  After a long discussion about responsibility, budgeting, and driver safety, I finally convinced my parents to co-sign the loan so I could purchase her in all her beauty.

I felt like I owned the world when I drove her off the lot for the first time.  She took to me right away – almost anticipating my every move – and never let me down.  In return, I keep her polished up and vacuumed out so that she would always be able to present herself with style.

She would be there for so many of the important parts of my young teenage life – cruising through town with my buddies hanging out the windows – my first teenage crush – the all-night drive-in movie – falling in love and then, having my heart broken – driving from the east coast to the west coast as a young Marine – moving into my first apartment.  She had heard me laugh, cry, talk with hope about the future, and talk with fear about tomorrow.  She witnessed me grow from a silly teenage boy to a man.  I could not have asked for a better friend.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the passenger window.  I snapped back to reality and saw an older lady looking at me with a puzzled look.  I pushed the button to lower the window and smiled.

“You okay?” I assured her that I was fine.  “So, what are you doing just sitting here?”

I paused, “Remembering.”


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. Great Story Len. I had a Ford Fairlane, duel exhaust, several speeding tickets later I ended up trading it for a van when I started playing music. What I would give to have that back. Thank you for bring back such great memories.

  2. Oh, my, Len! What wonderful memories of being young with your own car! I remember being allowed to drive my mother’s car — a Ford Fairlane convertible. White outside, red interior. Did I feel special or what? Of course, it wasn’t my car, except when I drove it … but yes. Memories of a 17-year-old.

    Thanks, Len!

  3. Been there, done that! Love it Len! There are times when I’ll be somewhere and say to my wife, look, look that was like my first car. Unfortunately her reaction usually brings me back to reality as I take one last look in my rear-view mirror as it drives past and sigh!