Thursday, September 19, 2013


The saddest thing ever. Mount Zion hospital, a UCSF hospital, is my favorite because of their commitment to patients (I have been volunteering off and on at the Cancer Center for almost  10 years). There is always a certain amount of sadness for me at MZ. I remember Rose and Sharon. And, of course, everybody that I see coming and going seemingly, in one way or another, is fighting for their lives. 

A couple of days ago, I am passing the entrance to MZ on my way to lunch with a friend. An older man is trying to get the wife, I assume (which is usually not a good idea), from a wheelchair into a car. My first thought, "this man should not even be driving," like it is any of my business. To say he is struggling is an understatement. A couple of parking attendants are watching helplessly. The older man simply cannot do it. I asked if I can help. He says NO. A smarter guy would have gone on. I am not sure what is going on or what to do. Getting someone from a wheelchair to the car is a technique that I learned with Rose. You have to go under their arms, put all the weight on you and then once you have them, if you are strong enough, which I am mostly, (Or, it shouldn't be attempted) maneuver them into the car. I insisted to the man that I have done it often and that I am the chaplain, hoping that will allow him to give me permission. Without waiting, I went under her arms, lifted her up. He pulled out the wheelchair at my direction. I put her in the front seat. "Let's get your seatbelt on." He thanked me. They drove off. 

Thank you Lord. The sad fact:  here is an older couple, I would say in their eighties; Who is looking after them?

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Annie Ruth

Greensboro, NC: Mrs. Annie Ruth Fields Cox age 75 died Saturday at the Penny Bryn At Maryfield. A Graveside Service will be 11:00AM Thursday at Memorial Gardens, Dunn, NC. Officiating will be Rev. Eddie White. 

I have never thought lots about obituaries until recently. I confess that I always read the obits, mainly in the NYTimes. If anybody reads this, I do not want an OBIT (just one of my  idiosyncrasies) but think they can be important to those grieving. It helps them do something tangible. My experience and belief. 

Yes, I am getting older but it is not that. A friend sent me something called OBIT KIT. Very clever. Then one of my High School classmates died. (Her "obit" leads off these comments.) 
In reading her "obit," I thought, I can do better than this. Here it is. 

"Annie Ruth Fields Cox was a valued member of the Dunn High Class of 1958. Friendly and loyal, her quiet manner belied her fierce independence. A loyal member of the Class, Annie Ruth is remembered, among many things, for staring adversity in the face and overcoming. In High School, the then President of the class had a locker close to Annie Ruth and remembers with much fondness her wonderful sense of humor. She will forever shine in our memories. God bless her on her journey and as the preacher in our class, the Reverend Benny Wood, would say. "We will meet you again Annie Ruth in the great beyond." Amen. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I just finished your memoir, Gun - Totin' Chaplain.  Thanks for writing it; I thoroughly enjoyed it.  My difficulty in reading a true accounts, i.e. books and soldier stories, is that I start questing my recollection and that is a healthy thing.  Some how I thought you deployed with the division in Dec. of 68.  My first day on the ground as 3rd Platoon Leader with Delta Company was March 30, 68.  I believe you arrived in May 68 and one of my platoon members,   Roger Underwood  recalls your participation in one of our 3rd Platoon ambushes.  If that was you it had to be mid to late May.  Underwood was wounded on his birthday 26 May 68.  I remember the Chapel at LZ Sally and the Chapel/Church at Bien Hoa.  FSB Mongoose I thought was between Hueand Coco Beach.  I don't recall a FSB Sandy or Sandy Star.


I believe I recall reading an article in Time Magazine about the "Gun - Totin' Chaplain after I returned home sometime in the Summer of 69.  Thanks again for the great read and please be patient with my confusion.  I am attempting to fill in the gaps in "My Story."  I had a much narrow experience in being the 3rd Platoon Leader for 7+ months then the XO and relief CO all with Delta CO 1/501. 


I will miss not visiting with you at the 40th Reunion at Ft. Campbell this June.  As I told you before, you are my HERO.  You always raised my spirits when I encountered you and that was an incredible gift in caring.  At one point as XO I really missed you when you were reassigned down south at Bien Hoa.  I wanted your guidance in helping me break bad news to a 3rd Platoon Soldier who's younger brother and sister drowned in a pond at their family ranch inOklahoma.  I was extremely judgmental since I thought your replacement Chaplain was a wimp and I don't believe he was respected by the troops as you were.  I describe this as one of the toughest tasks.  I wish you were there to do it for me.  I did it by speaking from the heart.  We cried, we hugged and I emptied my wallet as he headed to the Red Cross representative then home to attend the funeral and grieve with his family.


Well thanks again for writing your story.



Friday, July 26, 2013


I've thought more and more about this. I really think that much of the problem that present day chaplains have is that we don't have anybody at the top
lobbying for us--advocating for the uniqueness of the chaplaincy. The Chief of Chaplains is probably a good guy but what I have seen for years is a lack of leadership. We all know that being a chaplain in the military is far more than religious activities. Immediately when this controversy arose, if it is a real one and not a manufactured one from Fox News or somewhere--the advocacy should be that the Army Chaplaincy is not the same as the AF or Navy. The Army Chief of Chaplains should have been doing press releases or anything, talking to anybody who would listen, how Army chaplains are assigned to "Units" and not like the AF and Navy who are assigned to bases or ships. Vast difference. The Chaplaincy is a vital part of the military's "readiness." The Army Chief should find some commander and get a quote like in the 82d, "I'd give up any officer in this decision before I'd give up my chaplain." But, what the chiefs do as far as I see is wring their hands. What have they got to be afraid of? 

I've said this before but when Dave was the 18th Abn Corp Chaplain, he had a chaplain who did his PAO stuff. You couldn't breathe unless Dave was putting out some press release. Even today, you can go to Fayetteville, NC and any civilian can tell you all about the chaplaincy. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


As to your last comment, isn't it said that religion is the opiate of the masses...

I did want to comment on the above. As a very earthy type, I would respond relatively speaking, as examples with these 8-12 guys I hang out with. We are together about three breakfasts a week. We've been hanging out for years. There are a couple of lapsed Catholics, five or six proclaimed atheists, a Jew who is now a Zen Buddhist and then another of some other brand of Buddhist. And, when they asked me if I am a Christian, what they mean is not the, "are you saved, washed in the blood, etc," they mean, what is my religion? 

Fortunately for me being a Christian has always been easy. I haven't  wrestled with issues like some. I  embraced early and accept it as faith. And, have always seen it that way: can't prove it, etc. You either believe or you don't and I really have, as you would say, no dog in the hunt. I don't care, not in a callous way; what you believe. It is up to you. Having said that, my experience, which I often share in these heavy discussions, is that in crisis, to believe in the hereafter, for example, is comforting, regardless of one's beliefs or lack thereof. I think Americans are spiritual people and may be more cultural than anything. My dad (or mom), for instance, never went to church. Yet, Dad insisted that I go because he believed it was a good socializing experience.

It is why we say, everybody from the president on down, "our prayers are with you." Do we really mean we are praying? No, not really, it is an expression. My seminary professor and mentor, Dr. Boyce, use to say, "if you want to know my beliefs, I will tell you. If you want to argue, I don't have time." I had much rather be hanging out with a bunch of self proclaimed non-believers than a bunch of fundamentalist Christians. Religion in American life is very strange, I think. For instance, we do not have a single Protestant on the Supreme Court, yet very hard core Catholics. Roberts goes to Mass every single day. Does that influence his decisions. I think so. God bless (an expression) LOL. My best to Jerry. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From Lamar Hunt


South of London, where hwy A360 intersects with A303, 8 miles North of Salisbury, just west of the river Avon, is an awesome sight. Stonehenge.
A horseshoe formation of 30 huge upright stones, weighing up to 50 tons each, completed around 1500 BC; an engineering feat that would challenge modern technology.
No one knows who built Stonehenge nor what it means.

The stones remain but the meaning is lost.

The Gilgal Stones
When Joshua lead the Children of Israel across Jordan, and into the promised land, a stone from each of the 12 tribes was placed in a heap at Gilgal, a tiny village near Jericho.
He explained his reason for erecting the monument (Joshua 4:21-24)

“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan (River) on dry land…as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea…that all the peoples of the earth may…fear the Lord your God forever.’ ”

The stones have long since been scattered by the forces of nature. Neither will you find the village of Gilgal. It no longer exists.

The stones are gone but the meaning remains. Why? Because succeeding generations taught the meaning of the stones.


There are over 2 ½ million head stones that mark the graves of American Veterans. 124,909 of them are on foreign soil.

Those sacred sentinels speak to us.

These stones speak of Courage.
Like the courage shown by Major Pat Brady, who wore out three Huey choppers rescuing 51 seriously injured soldiers in one day, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice. I served with then MG Brady in Sixth Army in the 1990s.

These stones speak of Duty.
Because the heroes whose remains lie under these stones knew the meaning of citizenship, that nothing comes without obligation; that the nation that gave them their freedom had a right to ask that they take their turn against tyranny.

The stones speak of Honor, what we are, our character, our personal integrity.

When a prisoner of war, after surviving severe torture and near death, refused early release from the “Hanoi Hilton” because his Dad was an Admiral...honor! The voters of Arizona made him a US Senator.

The stones speak of Loyalty! I mean by that the loyalty that one G.I. has for another.
When a nineteen-year old machine gunner stood at the Chosin, on frozen feet, against a horde of Communist Chinese, firing his weapon until the barrel was red hot, so that his comrades could fall back and regroup; and stood there until Chinese Communists bullets cut him nearly in two...what do you call that? Loyalty? Courage? Duty? Honor?

All of the above!

The stones speak of sacrifice.
But sacrifice is not the end of our service. It is the beginning.
When a citizen puts on the uniform he commits his life, she commits her life, to country. That act, and the oath he or she swears, is the promise of the gift.
And it is a gift, not a loss!
So never speak of an American service man or woman losing his or her life. There is a difference in losing something and giving it.
I thank God that I was never called upon to give that gift, but I committed to it, as did every service man and woman, if it became my portion, when I chose to put on the uniform.

In his Inaugural Address, President John Kennedy (January 20, 1961): Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall
​pay any price,
​bear any burden,
​meet any hardship,
​support any friend,
oppose any foe,
​to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

​It is America’s military veterans who have paid the price, borne the burdens, and met the hardships to assure the survival and the success of liberty. And it their successors, America’s young men and women in uniform that are paying that price today.

We must teach the meaning of the stones.


​I can’t end without talking about one more stone, the Stone that was rolled away. What does the resurrection of Jesus mean?
​- That God accepted and approved all that Jesus did and taught.
​- Jesus is Lord!
​- Our salvation, through faith in the living Jesus, is secure.
​- Our own physical resurrection is guaranteed.
​- As Jesus said, (John 14: 19) Because I live you will also live!​
​- Thank you, pastor and church leadership, for conducting this wonderful worship experience in honor of our fallen heroes.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Cancer as Reality

Doc, I just finished an article in the NY Times called "The Cancer of Optimism." It is what you and I have talked about so much. I have often thought that we give too much false hope when it would be better to let a person simply "go" when there is no hope. A really moving article because it zeros in on such an obvious truth. I think you'd find it reinforcing. God bless.


In just a span of a couple of days, here in CA, tragedies seem to confront us. 9 women in a wedding party were in a limo that caught fire and 5 died. Four died in a canoe accident, and a sweet popular teenager was killed in my old church community, along with her father, in an auto accident. Plus, a young soldier killed in Afghanistan, had his funeral yesterday and will be flown back to the Philippines for his final resting place. In the midst of all of this, how can we be comforted. I don't know. What I have discovered is that regardless of one's faith experience, the one comforting thing, if there is any comfort, is heaven. The idea that this life is not the end, that in some mysterious way, we will all meet again.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT HEAVEN? I believe it is definitely a literal place and that we will know our loved ones when we all meet up. Plus, I believe that the various connections that we have known on earth will find the connections in each other, in heaven, i. e., a little like the "Facebook" concept. If you are a Facebook type, you know that they are constantly connecting you with others that you've known.

And, I believe about heaven is that our loved ones, when they look back to earth, they can only see the positive things. They see us when we are happy, making good decisions, remembering them, thankfulness for what we have.

It is heaven and since nobody has gone and returned to tell us how it is, it can be anything we want. The inspiration and knowledge that those we've loved see the positive things make us only want to be positive.

It is my heaven and works for me. what think? {{{{{{Jerry}}}}}}

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Don't Smell 'em, Treat 'em


It have been a long time volunteer at UCSF, Mount Zion campus. Actually taking a little break but still out of force of habit often drop by. The other day, I ran into this guy who actually looked like a homeless person. Big baggy clothes, older guy. I don't want to be stereotypical--Who knows what a homeless person looks like or who is homeless. Anyway, I see what appears to be a hummingbird and say, "Wow, was that a hummingbird?" He says, "No, it was a", and he named a type of butterfly. It made me perk up. He then proceeds to give me a block of instruction on butterflies and what has happened to them. Then he launched into a syloquey On Monarch butterflies. They used to be everywhere, now, they are nowhere to be found. I was blown away and put it into one of those serendipity experiences. Momentarily I thought of what a nurse at the Infusion Center once said about a patient that was in fact, hygiene challenged, "We don't smell 'em, we treat 'em."

Friday, April 26, 2013

F..King UP

A few months ago, I saw the baseball movie with Clint Eastwood. He is a scout. Not much of a movie. Plot as thin as a piece of NC country ham but the story is one of missed opportunities.

Here's a war story that is only slightly related to Ball State. When I was in College trying to be a football player, the Coach talked to us about going back to our High School trying to recruit friends, etc. We had this guy, son of one of my teachers--I talked him into coming to my college. They literally ignored him. I did what I could but it was obvious that the coach's interest was zero. The guy goes to UNC becomes an All American. I wanted somebody from Ball State to recognize him, who had it all: good grades, handsome, great athlete. How lucky they would be. They could put the rush on. They did nothing. The officials had their heads up their posterior. "Ball State who?"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chaplain's Opinions on BOSTON STRONG

Let's have some dialogue here. This is sad and fascinating to me. Most of us are glued to the radio for news of the Boston Marathon bombing. One dead and we hope closing in on the other. The one youngster on the lam is a teenager. One person interviewed, actually an NPR broadcaster, who knew the teenager. Can't believe it. Unbelievable. Questions, Questions, Questions.

Then comes a program on NPR, "Story Corp." Unbelievably inspirational. An amputee spends his time talking to patients at the hospital where his leg was amputated and who has many amputees. He goes to some bureaucrat at the hospital and tells them that he wants to volunteer to talk to amputees. They tell him to get "out of town." He isn't trained, etc. On the way out of hospital, he runs into the chaplain. The chaplain asks him what he is about. He explains to the Chaplain. The Chaplain ask, "Can he come back on Saturday? He doesn't know anything or why the Chaplain wants him to show up. But, dutifully he shows up on Saturday. It is training on how to talk to people. The Chaplain gives him a Chaplain's badge and tells him, "Now, you can visit as much and all you want." Amazing! Now, this is a Chaplain! Airborne! HooAhhhhhhh. An aside, what a nice story in light of the tragedy in Boston and the on-going man hunt.

I, along with you all, was glued to the TV as the Capture of the terrorist developed. I mentioned to Sandy that it was amazing that we could watch on TV the entire process. I thought during the time that it was so amazing and spoke to the technical proficiency and professionalism of our communication system and the journalist, it must have also put extra pressure on all the Law Enforcement agencies to provide protection, and keep the media from interfering.

The entire Law Enforcement system sure did a terrific job. I was amazed at how quickly they identified the two terrorist/brothers. It also was surprising to me that the two of them stayed in the Boston area. I would have thought that they would have had an escape plan. Perhaps they did, and perhaps it didn’t work….who knows.

I thought the interfaith worship service was terrific. All the Pastors/Rabbi/Preachers did a great job…The President’s speech was absolutely fantastic! It is amazing to me how the radical Islamic Philosophy could do such a good job in brain washing two individual who have experienced the “good American life.” Both of them, especially the younger one, were living a privileged life. How is it possible that they could turn on society and work out a plan to kill innocent people. How could the younger one be involved in such a heinous act and then go the GYM and work out and act like all is well. The only explanation I can come up with is a quote from the Bible: “The Heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.”

I am wondering if these two terrorist are part of a larger cell….I suspect they were…and am wondering if we are evolving into an increasing Israeli like environment. I hope not, but it makes me nervous. Dave

Our governmental leaders have continued to push for policies that create division among various groups and it doesn’t look like it will get better. The sadist change is the move to demonized political parties vs. working cooperatively for us. Look at how much energy and resources are being wasted on calling each other’s party out as the “devil.” TC

I believe the govt./administration/society-at-large is taking an incorrect approach to the dilemma prohibiting terrorism. Often times those that push the present style of how we deal with the potential terrorist quote the constitution/Bill of Rights, etc. In a literal sense they are often right. However, taking into consideration the reality of our present day society I believe we have to be willing to give up a portion of our freedoms. For example, there are those who vehemently speak against profiling often quote the basic concepts of our constitution: Freedom of Religion, Press, Speech, etc. Obviously, these are fantastic concepts, however, our constitutional liberties assume that our citizens are law abiding people who are willing to, when necessary, subject some of their own “rights” for the good of the nation and other people. For 200 years it worked and had fantastic results. Our concept of freedom and the fact that we believe people are “created for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and thus govt. is for, of, and by the people is so right. However, now comes a high percentage of people, including those of the Radical Islamic persuasion, whose philosophy is in contradiction with our constitutional philosophy, which is built on the Judeo-Christian theology. ( I would also include the increasing number of people who refuse to accept our historical heritage; in many cases, the atheist, many of those in the “move-on” movement, etc) Now comes a problem for the pure constitutionalist…a group with whom I would identify. How do we deal with those who bring harm to our society and those who want to compromise our constitutional principles. My guess is: We have to accept the reality of the situation and:

1) Go on the offensive, rather than continually working from a defensive position. For example, we have had huge problems in even defining terrorism. Consequently, our administration refers to the Ft. Hood massacre as “work place violence”; the Benghazi massacre as anything but terrorism, etc, etc.
2) Do away with the concept of “Political Correctness” and start profiling people. At this point we allow “minorities” to put us on a guilt trip and then we back off. In the process of making sure that we are not guilty of the accusation of prejudice, that some Muslims claim, I think we have actually shown favoritism to them.
3) Completely re-work our immigration policy. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" ----a fantastic concept, but at this point, without increased regulation, it is somewhat idealistic. The present immigration policy has overwhelmed the system and we have lost control. I can’t remember which candidate, but during the Republican Presidential Candidate election process, one of the candidates proposed that we put a serious limit on immigration for the next two yrs…..until the system can catch up.
4) Enforce and increase the requirement for U.S. Citizenship, and for obtaining a “green card.” A person by the name of Dr Wolanski has written a book, entitled,Battle for our Minds.” I haven’t read the entire book, but from those snippets that I have read it makes me wish that I would have written it.

Well, that is the dialogue /meditation for the day. I realize that it would be easy to over simplify the problem. Also, I realize that it is not any one particular breakdown in our society that is causing the decline. To name a few: The Christian Church influence or lack thereof; As Marv. Points out, the educational system; the breakdown in morals; the entitlement mentality,..a political system that is, in my opinion, out of control. (could be partially fixed with term limits); the economic situation, etc..etc. Dave

Good reflections on the drama of this past week! There are many questions yet to be answered about how the two got into agents of terror. Is this the start of the trend of white folks becoming the terrorists?

Agree strongly on the work of all of the law enforcement agencies; you can bet that there will be many more cameras installed in major cities. A good idea, however, a continued move away from the freedom of the people. How normal that a very few impact the lives of many. This could be scriptural if we applied it to our Christian witness.

I agree with Marv on his assessment on the loss of teaching values in our schools. I know that this is not PC, however, we go so far to protect the rights of everyone, our system of values hardly exists. I don’t have a lot of empathy for the German family that came here because the German government doesn’t permit home schooling. Peace, Tom

Dave/Tom, these are good comments and I can't say that I disagree with any of them. I am going to have to chew over some of the views. I personally think that we don't need less government but more and I think that a great national tragedy like Boston makes us realize that. If I have been disappointed in the president in anything, it has been that he has moved to the right, in some cases more than George W., ie, use of drones, GITMO still open, Bradley Manning.

One of my big complaints is when the politicians say "American People." This is crazy. It should be the "American people" who care." Not all Americans care. Look at voting percentages.

I am sure that everybody is hanging on every word. But, the Church is in a difficult position. We are all over the map: Joel Osteen and the prosperity gospel, the idiot demonstrating at soldier's funerals, And everything in between. And this doesn't even touch the social issues. JDA.


On Apr 18, 2013, at 4:20 AM, David Peterson

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I have been reading about your great friend Louie this evening. He sure reminded me of a cook I met on my rounds with my jeep. It was out on the flat area along QL 1. To the best of my memory, there was another chaplain there. They called the cook "the Budda". We had a great time, telling stories.

Some time later I was out on one of the firebases on the way to the Ashau on a remote firebase, accessible only by helicopter.. The Brigade Commander was on the fire base and he wanted to see me. There had been a terrible accident on a nearby firebase, and he had me taken in his helicopter to the fire base.

They took me to the sight of the accident, a helicopter pad that had a Loch sitting on it. When the Loch had landed, and was still running, the cook had tried to pass under the boom between the engine and the tail rotor. He had bent over to go under the boom and got too close to the rotor. It took the top of his head off. The body was laying on the ground propped up against some sand bags, wrapped up in ponchos. I told the guys to "give me his forehead" and they unwrapped the poncho, so I could anoint him.

It may not have been Louie, but somehow I feel it was. Whether it was an accident, or on purpose, no one on this side can know. It was pretty crowded behind the helicopter with the spinning tail rotor. I'd like to think he thought he could get through that space between the exhaust and the tail rotor.

Priest from Vietnam days


Father, it was Buddha. He was quite the individual. My thinking is probably that it had more to do with his alcohism than anything. Buddha was increasingly drinking more and more. He was actually assigned to A Battery which was attached to the Infantry Battalion (not sure where this is old info or not). He was the mess sergeant and was the best at it. But, by the end of the day, often he would be so drunk that he was beyond functioning. I can't remember how much detail I put in the book about him but I, along with several others, had to rescue him often. His getting killed was because he was so drunk that he walked into the rotary blade of the LOH (light observation helicopter). What your comments make me realize: you should write your own memoir. This is a good story and informs those who might like to know more about our sorry Vietnam war. (You did your duty). This story could be topped off by the fact we reported him as KILLED BY ENEMY FIRE!

Thursday, January 31, 2013


The dog tag was invented by a military Chaplain during the Spanish and American war during the time he worked at the Manila morgue. He was concerned that a deceased soldier would not be identified.

"You rarely give them a second thought when you're wearing them. But, when someone is killed in combat, the tags are removed. It's a very traumatic experience to take the tags off someone else...if I return the tags to a deceased soldier's family, I wear them, take them from around my neck and present them."

Elias Krakower recovers lost dog tags and returns them to the owner or to the family.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Emotional Support For The Grieving

The Sunday NY Times profiled a Lieutenant Colonel killed in Iraq and his three daughters and what an untimely death does to people. If you know it is coming, one thing, i.e., a terminally ill patient. If unexpected like In war, (even though there's danger), something else altogether as it is unexpected. A car wreck, accident--unexpected. A suicide.

Supporting someone in grief is often very hard, regardless but a death, "out of the blue" is even harder. "Being there" is all that can be done. Helping those experiencing grief feel comfortable is very big. Many people going through grief not only have to deal with the emotion of "loss" but with the issue of those around them who want them to "get over it" or to "move on." So, the answer. There is no answer. Just "Be There" as best you can.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


The battle I waged against this vile disease in 1985 was a successful one that brought me 15 years of contended life, but the illness finally won the war. Everyone must keep up the struggle, for it is always likely that you will win the war. William Styron, Darkness Visible

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Al Skinner

Albert Cameron Skinner, "Al," age 80, died on July 2, 2012. I found out only recently. Al and I were in Vietnam together. He was a terrific combat chaplain. What I always liked about Al was that he was irreverent, meaning he couldn't stand pious, hypocritical, "holier than thou" attitudes. Al was the first chaplain that I'd ever known who cussed. Now, this may not seem like a biggie to most but to me, it was colossal. I cussed all the time but it was always in my head. Al actually cussed out loud. We are not talking heavy duty stuff, mainly damns and hells and on occasion, f..k. It was always appropriately placed. For me, I could say damn or hell and it sounded out of place (I admit that I've learned. I call this my cussing blog). I just couldn't learn how to do it. Al had it dialed in. Where Al and I really hit it off was the year we were together at the Chaplain's School at Fort Hamilton, New York. (in the old days, the military sent career officers to a year of specialized training)
As part of our "Course", we took "masters" work at Long Island University. Al could never get over the fact that LIU was in Brooklyn. He loved Brooklyn and hanging out on Flatbush Avenue. We had this one deli where we would get these giant kosher pickles. When I started talking, Jacob, the Jewish owner always laughed. Al loved it and always said something like, "don't you know that Yankees think you Southerners are dumb." He belly laughed. We had the most fun.

Al and I were both country boys and Al, had grown up in upper State New York, on a dairy but was schooled in the ways of the world. He could cuss for goodness sake. But, I didn't have a clue about many things. Al delighted in telling folks his Southern buddy thought gay meant happy. Al Introduced me to the White Castle hamburger place. We had some great discussions sitting and watching traffic on the Verranzanos Narrows Bridge. I was in a Masters program in Sociology and Al was in one on Counseling. We laughed about the classes and the instructors. One female Prof. In particular gave me a hard time. I am going to use some of Al's language, "The problem you are having with her is simple, she simply doesn't like your sorry ass." We would die laughing. Al should have retired a Colonel. He never sucked up and was always his own person and was without a doubt, the most authenic human being that I've ever known. Al, thanks for the memories.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Short, short story

We were High School sweethearts. She was two years older than me and she tells me that she picks me out at a basketball game. I am sitting on the bench. I knew who she was. A cheerleader, had a car. She was something. Fast forward, our lives take different turns. She is for a bit, an airline flight attendant, begins to date a local boy who is at best a Neanderthal type. Why she would do it, I don't have a clue. I'm out pursuing whatever a guy like me pursues when away at college. But, she is always in my heart. One day I'm at school and my best buddy who is still hanging around my hometown, calls me, "Bernie, you'd better sit down. Olivia got married." What! I couldn't believe it. Somehow, I thought she'd always wait for me. She didn't, raised a family, loved her life and the sort of persona that one lives. In our little town, everybody knew her. She could light up a room just by walking into it. I visited from time to time, her husband was a good guy, worked for himself, made a good life. But, in our hearts, we always loved her. She taught me how to kiss. Her lips were soft, just imagine a small baby's fingers and touching them to your lips. And, here's where this tale is focused. We rendezvous in the sunset of our lives and after a couple of years of sporadic wonderful enlightened love making, she dies of breast cancer. I am heartbroken but move on as I have another life. Here's where it may get dicey with all but me: With regularity, I am awakened with her soft lips touching mine in the tenderest of ways. No questions or secrets revealed, merely in the first hushed mornings light I am blessed with the softest of kisses.