Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Eulogy For A Friend..............

I found out that a very old dear friend died of cancer just hours before I left for Williamsburg. My friend's wife asked me to be a pall bearer. She also said I could present a eulogy if I felt up to it. This is what I came up with and presented this afternoon at the funeral.

Grady Terrell 1952-2010

I love the English language, both the written as well as the spoken word. However on occasions like today, I fully understand it’s limitations. How feeble words are when we are confronted with this kind of loss and sorrow.

Mr. and Mrs. Terrell, Ricky, Cheryl, Geryl, Rose Ann, Chris, Jennifer, Angela and Amy, I know that nothing I can say or do here will take the pain or sense of loss from your hearts. If I could, I would do anything in my power to do so. I do hope however that by speaking to you about my memories of Grady that it might make the pain more bearable for both you and those others of us that are left behind.

A small consolation that I have is a quote from Queen Elizabeth II . She once said that grief was the price we have to pay for loving someone. Granted, on days like today it seems like a very high price to pay. But just consider how drab and pointless the world would be without love.

I first met Grady back in the mid to late 1970s. My dad wasn’t around much, and I didn’t have much direction and was just drifting. I was on the cutting edge of getting into trouble, starting to break minor laws and just generally being a nuisance. I remember the first time I spoke to Grady. He was a Sergeant with the Carrboro Police at the time and he picked me up in his patrol car just as I was figuring out how to break into a coca cola machine that happened to be nearby. I don’t know why he did that at that particular time, maybe he knew what I was up to, or maybe he was just curious, but we just rode around for a hour or so and just talked. It was the first time that anyone seemed to have a particular interest in me that didn‘t involve my being blamed for doing something wrong. We spent more time together, established trust with each other and became friends. It got to the point that whenever Grady worked night shift, I would come in and ride with him when I could. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why Grady took the time and effort to spend that kind of time with me. Then it dawned on me that it was just his nature to try to help his fellow man. Even a hoodlum like me.

On those long nights we would talk about everything and anything, love, life, women, guns, history, the afterlife, not to mention solving the all world’s problems if we were just put in charge. I was reminded of one of those discussions we had when I spoke to Rose Ann last week. You see, Grady was firmly convinced that God was a southerner. He told me that when you died and heard God’s voice that he wouldn’t sound like he was from Boston, New York or any other “foreign” place like that. And when you ended up at the pearly gates that St. Peter would say something like “ Boy, hop on up in the truck and I will run you up to the big house” So when Rose Ann told me that the Lord called Grady home because he needed another angel, I told her, I didn’t think that was the case. You see, I just can’t see Grady as a angel. I would think of him as more of a consultant. I can very easily see him beside the throne, holding that big mug of sweet tea of his, telling the Lord, “Hey boss, you know Roy Williams and the boys had a real rough time last year and it sure would be a good thing if you could help them out a bit”

If you didn’t know it, Grady was a rabid Carolina fan and if you cut him, he bled Carolina blue. As a matter of fact, the closest I ever came to being run off by Grady was when I once said something good about that University that happens to be over in Durham which shall remain nameless.

As our friendship grew Grady taught me a lot about life and how to be a man. I was invited into his family circle and grew to love his youngsters as if they were part of my family. The kids were Grady’s pride and joy and he showed me by his example how to be a good father. Grady was the first person to take me camping and to show me his love of the mountains and wilderness. I will tell you that you have just not lived until you have ridden in a car with Grady driving, rolling down the Blue Ridge Parkway while Grady was singing at the top of his lungs, off key mind you, the song “This is God’s Country”

Grady also introduced me to hunting. Every Labor Day we would be out in some cornfield trying to get our limit of doves. We did pretty good too until we figured out that we could get sirloin steak cheaper per pound than what those doves were costing us.

Grady also taught me a appreciation for various other things. Good food, fellowship, strong drink and John Wayne movies for example. Whenever there was a John Wayne film festival on television to Grady’s thinking it was if there had been a national holiday declared. He couldn’t think of anything better than to be able to sit back and watch the Duke. This rubbed off on me because my nickname for Jennifer, Grady’s eldest daughter was Baby Sister after a character in the movie, “True Grit” To this day, I can not watch True Grit without thinking about Grady but I am STILL trying to figure out whether Grady was trying to act like John Wayne or John Wayne was acting like Grady.

We also shared a mutual love of history which led to many weekend road trips to various historic sites all over the area. Grady and I put in a lot of miles both on foot and by car to see the spots where America was created.

My affection and respect for Grady grew to the point that when I got married, Grady was my best man since I couldn’t think of anyone better for the job.

Grady fell into some hard times later. My wife Beverly and myself tried to be supportive as we could be when Grady moved to get a new start. Eventually, Grady found the lovely Rose Ann and fell in love with her. I had the pleasure of being at their wedding and figured that it was a perfect fairy tale ending for Grady after all he had been through.

It was about this time that Grady and I started drifting apart. It wasn’t as if we had a falling out, we just had different interest and I always figured that we could always get together sometime later. Even when he got sick and I heard about it, I just thought he would whip it just like he had whipped other things. After all, Grady was like the mountains he loved so much, he would always be there. Last Thursday I found out just how wrong I was in thinking that.

I have a good number of regrets in my life. One of my greatest today is that I never got the chance to tell Grady how much his being a part of my life meant to me. The man I am today is the result of his influence and teachings. I hope someday that I can be as good of a teacher, mentor and friend to someone who needs it, as Grady was to me.

Grady was my friend, and I shall miss him very much.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Road Trip............

The truck is all packed and I head out first thing in the morning for Colonial Williamsburg for one of our bigger events for the year. Blogging will of course be light since computers were fairly scarce in the 18th Century but I will be with my buddies Miss Nancy, her hubby, and the ever delightful Miss Susan and the rest of the hospital family.

I will look forward to giving you all the details when I return.

War Story...............

There's a old line that cops and military guys use quite a bit. It goes " The difference between a fairy tale and a war story goes like this, a fairy tale starts out "Once upon a time," a war story starts out with "This ain't no sh*t"

Seeing my buddy Ms. Nancy's old blog entry about patriotic songs reminded me of a war story that I wanted to share. The names are changed to protect the guilty.

I had a guy that worked for me, Ricky Ricardo. He was from the Philippines and was a damn good employee. He did have a few quirks however. He was a former law enforcement officer in the Philippines under Marcos and just couldn't figure out the American method of law enforcement. (But more on that at a later time. )

Ricky was also working on becoming a U.S. citizen. He was sweating out the test that he would have to take so I (Being the worlds biggest history bore) offered to give him a hand with studying. I figured that everything was just whipping along like gangbusters until one night I came up behind him while he was patrolling his area. I heard him singing under his breath a familiar tune. The lyrics however, were not what I expected.

"Yank my doodle, ain't it a dandy?"

I made the decision at that moment, that if that was a test question, he would just have to fail that one.

Rick did pass the test, and became a U.S. citizen.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Time To Go...........

Just heard on the news that General Stanley McChrystal shot off his mouth a bit too much to Rolling Stone magazine and has been called back to the White House to consult with the Light Bringer.

Let me start out by saying I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the General. His leadership and wisdom has made a bad situation in Afghanistan much better.

To put it bluntly, however he has screwed the pooch with his comments. What he said, while it may very well be true, and I more than likely agree with 99% of his conclusions, he had no business stating them publicly. A soldier's duty is to receive and follow orders, Period. If at any time, a soldier can not in good faith follow his orders, he should state so and take the consequences. I firmly believe in civilian control of the military. Without it, America would have been just another 3rd world tinpot military dictatorship with Presidential elections held after a bit of unauthorized target practice at the Presidential palace.

America has in the past had these difficulties before. Washington at New Windsor Cantonment, President Truman vs. Douglas MacArthur in Korea. All done to assure civilian control of the Military. Again, our country could not survive any other way. McChrystal should be relieved of his command.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Today's Birthdays...............

In 1909.......

Errol Flynn, Actor, king of the swashbucklers and all around hell raiser.

In 1924............

Audie Murphy, most decorated solider in WWII. Awarded almost every medal for valor the U.S. has to include the Medal of Honor.

Happy Father's Day...............

Just wanted to say Happy Father's Day to all you gents out there who are blessed to be dads. I was never lucky enough to been one. (I HAVE been called a mother many times in my lifetime, but that's a story for another day) So I try to make up for it by being a good uncle and faux godfather.

I firmly believe that being a dad has to be one of the toughest jobs around, but one with the greatest rewards. My hat's off to you lads!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree...............

For the longest time I wondered why the Light Bringer seemed to have such a problem with Great Britain, one of the United States longest and most loyal allies. His disrespect to the government and the people of the United Kingdom was painfully obvious to anyone who stopped to watch or listen to his speeches and actions.

Well, I think I have it figured out.

Please allow me to introduce to you Hussein Onyango Obama. This gentleman was the Light Bringer's paternal Grandfather.

Now for a little backround. Just after WW II many of the European countries colonies and possessions in Africa and Asia started agitating for their independence. Some more peacefuly than others. Unfortunately the future country of Kenya was not one of the peaceful ones. The native resistance to British rule jelled into a group called The Mau Mau. The Mau Mau started a low level guerrilla war against government forces as well as local tribesmen who supported the government. The assassination of a pro-government native chief led the British to declare a state of emergency and to bring in troops to put down the insurrection. The Mau Mau rebellion was particularly bloody, in that very few firearms were used by the rebels. They used the Panga, a type of a machete. It is estimated that 50,000 Kenyans died in the years of the emergency.

There is no question that the British were heavy handed in their dealing with the Mau Mau, (Particularly when compared to American values and standards) but they should be judged by the standards and mores of their time and place, not ours.

So, back to our friend, Mr. Obama. He had served in WW II as a soldier in Burma and returned home to go to work as a cook for a British Officer in Kenya. In 1949 he was arrested by British authorities and kept in a special prison for two years. Based on what information is available, this wasn't a case of a innocent man being caught up in a dragnet. According to one of the most respected historians of this period, a person of Mr. Obama's reputation as a war hero, and his status as a important person in his village, British intelligence must have had "damn good evidence that he was guilty" According to Mr. Obama's relatives he was routinely tortured while imprisoned. This caused him to hate the British with a deep and all consuming passion. The Mau Mau emergency lasted until 1959. In 1963 Kenya obtained it's independence from Great Britain and Barrack Hussein Obama Sr. (Hussein Onyango Obama's son, who had also been arrested by the British) because of his father's service in the rebellion was sent to the University of Hawaii on a scholarship in 1960 sponsored by the American Government to train future leaders of Kenya. There, Mr. Obama Sr. met the Light Bringer's mother and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now if my grandfather and father had been locked up by a group, I just might be a bit peeved at that group. Add to that the fact that the Light Bringer has been brought up to resent authority, it starts making sense the attitude he has regarding the British.

At least that's how I have it figured.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wee Bit Late..............

I meant to post something on June 4th about these brave men, but couldn't figure out how to do it. So here is a small, late tribute.

H/T Dr. Grumpy

The lawyer from South Dakota

On memorial day, veterans graves across the country are honored with wreaths and flags. But some veterans have no graves to honor, and can only be remembered.

Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, U.S.N.

He & his men changed the course of World War II in the Pacific, and didn't live to know it.

He was a lawyer, born in Fort Pierre, South Dakota. His father was descended from English settlers, his mother was a Sioux Indian.

He was married, with 2 daughters.

He was admitted to the state bar in South Dakota, but rather then going into practice decided to join the U.S. Navy. He was chosen to be a pilot, in the new field of naval aviation.

He trained to fly torpedo planes (no longer in use). Their goal was to fly close enough to an enemy ship to drop a torpedo into the water, then get away as fast as possible. This was a difficult job. It required the planes to fly in a low, straight line as they approached the enemy, making them easy targets for enemy fighters and anti-aircraft.

Waldron was a good pilot. He was chosen to teach at Annapolis, and later Pensacola. He flew planes off 1 battleship and 3 carriers.

He and his wife held parties for other pilots at their Norfolk home. He was very proud of his little girls. Some pilots remembered being taken to his daughters' darkened bedroom and asked "Did you guys ever see such pretty little girls?"

With war looming in the Summer of 1941, Waldron and his men were assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet, in the Pacific theater.

He was determined. He once told his pilots that "if we run out of gas, we'll piss in the tanks." He wasn't looking for glory, or to become a martyr, or a hero. He was just doing his job.

On the morning of June 4, the Hornet was somewhere off Midway island, placed there to defend against the massive Japanese force sent to capture the Pacific base.

Waldron likely had few illusions about his chances. Although his men were well-trained, their "Devastator" torpedo bombers were already obsolete. The new "Avenger" planes were much better, but only beginning to roll out of the factories. And with the enemy coming, they had to make do with what they had. Before the battle he called his men together and said "If there is only one plane left to make a final run in, I want that man to go in and get a hit."

The Japanese "Zero" fighter was a lethal weapon. Though poorly protected, it was quicker and more maneuverable than it's American counterparts. And it was flown by some of the best pilots in the world.

On the morning of June 4, 1942, Waldron led Torpedo Squadron 8 off the Hornet. He had orders to search for the Japanese in a specific area, but had a hunch (he called it his "Sioux intuition") that the heading he'd been told to follow was wrong. He disobeyed orders, and it turned out his intuition was correct.

Waldron led his 15 planes straight to the enemy fleet. Forced to fly straight & low to aim their torpedoes, they were sitting ducks as the Zeroes swooped down and destroyed them one by one. Out of 30 men, there was only one survivor, Lt. George Gay. He saw Waldron stand up in his plane as it burst into flames, just before his own plane was shot out from under him. They didn't get a single hit.

The 15 pilots of Torpedo Squadron 8, photographed in May, 1942. Waldron is standing, 3rd from left. Lt. George Gay, (circled, 1st row) is the only man in the picture who survived.

In a few minutes all the planes of Torpedo Squadron 8 had vanished beneath the Pacific, leaving only Lieutenant Gay hiding from the Zeros under his flotation device. It was a disaster for the Americans.

But unbeknownst to all but Lt. Gay, they changed the course of the Pacific war.

The deadly Zeroes were now at sea level, on the prowl for more torpedo planes. But the next American wave, this time of dive bombers, was high above. They might have been easy targets, too. But as they came down the Zeroes were no longer in a position to defend their fleet, and couldn't gain altitude in time to stop the bombers. Between 10:20 and 10:25 a.m that morning the Japanese lost 3 of their 4 aircraft carriers to the bombers. The last carrier followed them a few hours later.

The loss of the four carriers, with their planes, pilots, and crews, was a blow the Japanese navy never recovered from. The war went on for 3 more years, but the tide was turned by the sacrifice of a group of men, led by a 41-year old lawyer from South Dakota.

The fallen from Torpedo Squadron 8. Their only grave marker is the blue Pacific water.

Lt. Commander John C. Waldron
Lt. Raymond A. Moore
Lt. James C. Owens, Jr.
Lt.(jg) George M. Campbell
Lt.(jg) John P. Gray
Lt.(jg) Jeff D. Woodson
Ens.William W. Abercrombie
Ens. William W. Creamer
Ens. Harold J. Ellison
Ens. William R. Evans
Ens. Henry R. Kenyun
Ens. Ulvert M. Moore
Ens. Grant W. Teats
Robert B. Miles, Aviation Pilot 1c
Horace F. Dobbs, Chief Radioman
Amelio Maffei, Radioman 1
Tom H. Pettry, Radioman 1
Otway D. Creasy, Jr. Radioman 2
Ross H. Bibb, Jr., Radioman 2
Darwin L. Clark, Radioman 2
Ronald J. Fisher, Radioman 2
Hollis Martin, Radioman 2
Bernerd P. Phelps Radioman 2
Aswell L. Picou, Seaman 2
Francis S. Polston, Seaman 2
Max A. Calkins, Radioman 3
George A. Field, Radioman 3
Robert K. Huntington Radioman 3
William F. Sawhill, Radioman 3

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today In History...............

In 1692.............

Port Royal, Jamaica was struck by earthquake that lasted an estimated 3 minutes, but in those 3 minutes around 1600 people died and 3000 injured. Port Royal was the buccaneer capitol of the Caribbean and was considered the most wicked city in the world at that time. The earthquake was seen by most people as God's judgment against the town.

In the early 1960's scuba divers started archeological work on the sections of the city which had collapsed and were covered by the ocean during the quake. What they found was a almost perfectly preserved time capsule from 1692 with countless artifacts. The work continues to this day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Today In History...............

The rocker in me just HAD to note this date,

In 1955.............

Bill Haley and the Comets hit Number 1 on the Billboard charts with the song, Rock Around The Clock.

And music was never the same again..........

Do You Want To Live Forever?..........

With today's D-Day commemoration I thought I might remind folks that another battle was being fought on this day way back in 1918, 92 years ago.

In the Belleau Wood, 3rd Battalion, 5 Marines and 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines attacked well prepared German defensive positions in the wood. The Marines advanced across wheatfields covered with waist high wheat while under very heavy machinegun fire. When the Marines started wavering under the murderous fire, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly who had been twice awarded the Medal of Honor, motivated the men of his unit the 73rd Machine Gun Company with the immortal words " Come on you Sons of Bitches, Do you want to live forever?"

The Marines attacked and after much hand to hand combat, gained a foothold in the wood. The battle would last until the 23rd of June, but the beginning of the end started on this date.

Operation Overlord..........

Most of my blogger friends have covered it much better than I could, but today is the 66th anniversary of the invasion of the Normandy coast. The liberation of North-West Europe and the final defeat of the Nazi empire all began when the allied paratroops landed behind the German lines and when allied troops set foot on the sands of Juno, Sword, Gold, Utah, and "Bloody"Omaha beaches.

I have a special reason for a rememberence of this event. About 2 1/2 hours north of my home is the town of Bedford VA. Bedford was the home of Company A, 116th Inf. Reg., 29th Inf. Div. On June 6th, 1944 the 29th and the 1st Inf. Div. (The Big Red One) came ashore on Omaha beach. Company A lost 19 men in the first days fighting. This from a town with a population of 3200. This was proportionately the largest D-Day losses for any town or city in the U.S. This is the reason that this town was chosen for the National D-Day memorial location.

So in addition to all the brave young men, I lift my glass to the Bedford Boys...........

Lull Before The Storm..............

I'm starting the hunting and gathering for next weekend's event. We are doing a 1812 event at Ft. Macon on the coast of N.C.

Of course, I keep on thinking up things that would be cool to have with me, things I want to get finished before then, and so on. The plan is that I take all my toys (muskets, pistols, cutlasses, axes) to display the weapons of the age of fighting sail as well as some of my ropework. I need to finish up some reproduction hand grenados as well as sheaths for some sailor's knives I made up. I should be able to get them knocked out if I get focused.

I plan on taking a camera with me and hope to be able to post photos of the event, however, my computer skills are still limited. We will see.........