This journalist is long overdue in expressing my appreciation to the staff and our two editors, Michelle Kim and Bryan Fazio, for their unwavering support of "A Veteran's Story." Likewise, the staunchest of unfaltering supporters is our publisher, Pat Cavanaugh. Pat has always been there for me, to encourage, to offer constructive criticism, to educate, to be a confidante, and occasionally suggest that perhaps I should be measured for a straight jacket along with recommendations for a padded cell.
Harriman, TN - 1966: As one of the eager seniors attending Career Day at Harriman High School, Howard Hendrickson gave the Army recruiter an opportunity to bend his ear. Howard stated, "He kept talking about how bad basic training could be so I didn't even think about joining up." Tech School for data processing seemed the better alternative. "I had the training," he said. "But the albatross around my neck was a draft card with a 1A classification. There wasn't a job in East Tennessee to be had."
Visualize growing up in Idaho to become a University of Idaho 'Vandal', then receiving a 2nd Lieutenant's commission from their Air Force ROTC program with high hopes of soaring even higher as a fighter pilot. Then imagine the disappointment when rejected for pilot training due to the damage you caused your own unprotected ears during repeated target practice with a pistol.
According to legend, in the year 1307 the bailiff/agent of the Hapsburg Duke of Austria placed a Hapsburg hat on a pole in the town square of the small village of Altdorf, Switzerland. Once the hat was in position, he demanded anyone walking by to uncover their hats before it. As a local hunter/farmer and his son passed by, the older man refused to obey the decree.
Intelligence school in Denver, CO was thought-provoking, complicated, and opened enigmatic doors I never thought existed. We mastered the art of dissemination; gained knowledge of codes; planned and plotted and analyzed envisioned missions; studied Soviet military equipment to master photographic interpretation; and were privy to a few top secret particulars that are now prehistoric. As Sun Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago in his military masterpiece The Art of War, "Know your enemy better than you know yourself."
"I celebrated my 95th birthday this September," Kathleen said proudly, then crooned in a robust voice, "Sometimes I grew weary and wearier, and life became dreary and drearier, but then I was told, 'you're not getting old, you're just chronologically superior.' And it's nice to be superior in at least one category, don't you think?" Kathleen Eidson, originally in Norwegian, Ejdson, shoulders superiority in the noblest category of all: a superior human being. She is also a United States Marine.
With administrative cauldrons overflowing with entrenched beliefs and colossal egos, politicians and military elites habitually consider military visionaries as nothing more than annoying burrs in expensive saddles. On today's technological battlefields adaptation arrives quicker due to the fast-paced changes in weapons and tactics. But things were quite different after World War One. Hyped as 'the war to end all wars,' the celebrated armistice actually set the stage for a dozen future conflicts, including World War Two. One persistent voice not only predicted the looming battle in the Pacific, but even specified the point in time at an anchorage called ...
August 7, 2012: Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank, Logar Province in Afghanistan. She remembers a 'thump' followed by the sensation of a big hand picking up her body then squeezing the breath from her lungs. Hurled through the air, her body smashes against a blast wall, called an Alaska Wall by the U.S. Military. A water truck packed with 3,000 lbs. of explosives had just detonated 'inside the wire.' Major Patty "Mama Bear" Justice lies wounded and motionless, another casualty of another suicidal terrorist attack. She is 49 years old.
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If necessary, a flight surgeon was authorized to give the pilots pep pills to keep them flying. More than 1,000 fighter aircraft would create a wall of protection from treetop level to 30,000 feet. The men on the beaches were to be protected at all costs. The date was June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of Europe.
To say Yellow Brick House resident John Slavik came from humble beginnings is a misrepresentation of European history. A 'multi-cultural' beginning is closer to the truth.
A fighter in every sense of the word, "The Great Indestructible" expired in a country that hasn't fought a war since 1847 and is internationally-known for its neutrality. He failed in several commercial adventures before succeeding marvelously in the business world. President Franklin D. Roosevelt disliked the man and declined to meet with him on numerous occasions, which may be understandable since The Great Indestructible publicly criticized FDR and continuously referred to him as a "Socialist."
After graduating from St. Joseph's Nursing School in Atlanta, Newton County native Delores Haney did her pediatric rotation at the Children's Hospital in Cincinnati. There she met a young man from Xavier College who was paying educational expenses by working as a bartender.
An NVA machine gun opened up as he walked point across a rice paddy.
Hamilton Field near San Francisco: 9 p.m. Unarmed and unescorted, with fuel tanks filled to the max, 13 B-17 Flying Fortresses take off at 15- minute intervals.
The Hawaiian Islands and Philippine Archipelagos were familiar in name only to most Americans on Dec. 7, 1941, but even fewer recognized the names of locations where men died: Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Bataan, and Corregidor, to mention a few.
After Pearl Harbor, African-Americans wanted to fight for their country. A select few obtained the toughest training available: the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Germans were completely surprised as Allied forces swarmed ashore at 2 a.m. Jan. 22, 1944, near the Italian prewar resort towns of Anzio and Nettuno. With almost no opposition, the Anglo-American armies pushed inland and secured a 15-mile stretch of Italian beach.
Mother Nature couldn't claim this streak of Lightning; it was created by Lockheed's celebrated designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and proved to be one of the best American fighters of World War II.
During the Civil War, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman suffered a ''breakdown" and was sent home on leave to recover. A sufferer of depression and mood swings, Sherman endured the humiliation of being labeled ''insane'' by the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper. At Vicksburg, journalists referred to Sherman as a "lunatic."
As in life, there are miracles in war. Jim Armstrong's exploits as a B-17 pilot speak volumes about amazing survival, but one of his waist gunners, Olen Grant, lived to tell a story beyond belief.
Minnie Lee Williams refused to accept the notion her son would never return from World War Two. She took in laundry to help augment her husband's earnings from his shoe repair shop on Green Street in Olde Town Conyers and on occasion took out her son's clothes, too. Minnie washed and ironed Johnny's clothes as if he still lived at home, as if he would still be coming home, as if he was still alive.
From an editorial in the New York Times on Dec. 15, 1944: "Big strike on railroad marshaling yards in Rangoon by B-29 bombers causes devastating results. No B-29s were lost."
If present-day students are fortunate enough to find World War II mentioned in their history books, they'll most likely study battles fought in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific. The CBI Theater is habitually cited as a footnote.