Thursday, December 27, 2012

Run Away

Run away…

Get away, away from an empty house, a house concealing its emptiness behind sparking lights and shiny baubles hung on a counterfeit fir. A place filled with the stagnant melodies proclaiming the joyous season adding to the pretense. A jumbled mess of partially completed projects strewn here and there, corners with cobwebs catching the castoff lint of life – some gratefully hidden behind closed doors. Plaster and brick share the unwanted cold day with the spaces inside, dull gray light seeps in through the windows from outside.

Run away… from the oppressive void that steals the energy of each morning, from the litany of “to do’s” that never seem to get done, from the failures and the errors in judgment. Leave the chill that uncomfortably wracks your body dulling your senses and your mind. From the fear, the lies and falsehoods that everything is alright, the deceptions that you've convinced yourself and others are true. From the exhaustion, the loneliness, the hollowness that makes up every day, every hour, every minute of your depression.

Run away… to see the rising sun from a different perspective, to feel the radiance of a new day, in a new place. Absorb the spontaneous energy from exploring the unknown and savor the small treasures to be found. Abandon the rigidness in favor of impulsiveness, yet spend the daylight wisely. Share the reality of you with those you encounter and relish in their sincere reactions. Give in slowly to the twilight and the mounting darkness; carry the thrill of the day into your dreams.

Run away… only to return… this time…

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'm dreaming....

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

Not from my point of view... yes the tree is up and decorated and various Christmasy dust collectors have been scattered around the house.... the neighborhood houses have their lights strung and lit - emitting glorious colors from trees n eves n roof tops.
Presents have been tucked into secretive places throughout the houses or adorned with festive colored paper and ribbon and bows and placed under the tree...
Seasonal cookies and cakes n candies galore fill dishes and bowls and trays....

But where is the snow?
That glorious blanket of white crystals scattered across the landscape?
Reflecting the sun's radiance during the day and the multitude of colored lights in the night?
Where are the drifts and banks piled high beside the drives and sidewalks?

Where are the awkwardly built but so cute snowmen made from three high stacks of roundish shapes of glittering icy crystals?
Precarious shaped walls for protection and mounds of snowballs ready for launch?
No where to be found...
and not a thing to be done about it!?!
Yes I know the stats, we "rarely" have a white Christmas... here in Ski country
But still one can dream....
Sing it Bing!

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
to hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
to hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
just like the ones I used to know
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Christmases be white

May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Christmases be white!!!!!!!!
Just dreamin...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hello Again...

       I've let my writing slide, been spending a lot of time with my camera... among other things...Heck those are just excuses.. I was looking at the last couple of things that I posted and their dates. Haven't written a word here since July. I try to keep a journal of thoughts and ideas too... last entry was in July.
        July --- we had our little RVN reunion in July in Nebraska, me and a few of the guys from the 243rd. I saw friends I hadn't seen in 40 years... it was a truly awesome time. I hadn't felt so good about the time I spent in Vietnam in a long time. We all shared our stories, our memories, our disappointments. We all learned about the troubled times some of us have gone through over the last 40 years. The physical disabilities, the emotional issues, the hassles of putting the war away and getting on with life, trying so very hard to make things work, to establish a functional life in a society that hadn't totally accepted "us" or what we did. I thought at the time that I was one of the few to have "made it" without many - if any issues... maybe I was wrong?!? The people we met and that helped to host our get-together were magnificent... you couldn't have asked for any better treatment than what we received. It was very far from the experiences we had back in the 70's when we returned home.
        All that being said I didn't post a single picture here of the good times we had.... I didn't write a single word to share with you about how awesome it was to see and talk and hug and cry with guys I was so close to and still am... I struggle to answer why... I've known that this blog has sat vacant since then, I know that I still haven't sent patches and T-shirts like I should have, I know I haven't kept the unit website up like I should have... I know... I know... I know
         Inside me it's like a huge fear of losing.. nah not right... I'm not sure how to explain it, I'm not sure there are words that can describe it... if I put down the words, if I post the pictures, if I share the stories, if I share the feelings it all comes to an end. I've got to hold it inside, to protect it, to keep it, or it will all go away - disappear like they all did 40 years ago... not to be found, not to be able to share with - just a memory, a story, a faded picture or slide.
           I've been fighting this battle inside for 5 months now and for all the alcohol induced headaches, emotional heartaches, depression and stress induced insomnia I've finally came to the realization that I've been acting like an asshole - pardon the language. How dumb am I? What better way to celebrate the rekindled friendships than to plaster their pictures and their stories all over the place? What better way to overcome 1970's attitudes than to bury them with 2012's? Why should I hide like I did in 1971 and the following years? I'm getting to old to play games - particularly with myself!
            I made myself a promise to get rid of all the new/old baggage... get back to being the me I want to be.. easier said than done... but it shall be done!!! I owe that much to myself if not those around me...

HRMPF.... I hate it when I'm wrong... when there's seemingly no solution.... yet I love it when I find the way - the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter...
YEAH... feeling better.... just gotta follow through... gotta do it... get it done!!!! Ack... all this revelation without Jameson?!? LOL... Promise to post again within a week... or you can kill me!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rockabillies A few weeks back














Saturday, July 21, 2012

For a short time

He came home and closed the door behind him,
To shut out the world for a short time,
Turned off the phones, unplugged the PC,
Crawled into his favorite chair with a bottle and a glass,
A playlist of oldies spinning on low in the background,
To watch the evening turn slowly to nighttime,
To sort through the clutter in his mind and heart,
To drift away through memories and images,
To wait for the rise of a new day,
To shut out the world for a short time…
The liquor was bitter and unfulfilling,
He set aside the glass unfinished,
To concentrate on the chaos filling his mind,
As the night’s dark blanket enveloped the room
His consciousness began to melt away,
The storm of thoughts relinquishing their hold,
Eventually surrendering to the darkness and fatigue,
To shut out the world for a short time…
Morning’s sun filtered through the front window,
Waking from the fitful coma still sunken in the chair,
He threw off the fog of sleep rising slowly to meet the new day,
The commotion and confusion of the evening
Replaced by the physical discomforts of age and heat
Turning off the hiss of the amplifier he wondered
What will this day bring?
He only wanted to shut out the world for a short time…

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I miss you Dad!

I miss you Dad!

I miss your calloused hands that held mine and led me along life’s path,

Your arms that pulled me close to share your strength,

That sideways glance that said, “I’m here if you need me.”

I miss the smell of your after shave in the bathroom each morning,

That smack on the back of the head that said you screwed up – but its okay,

The sound of your laughter that would fill the room,

I miss your acknowledgement of something done well,

Your encouragement to try again after I struck out,

Admitting that you couldn’t have done better when I know you could and had,

I miss the times we talked – man to man,

When you shared your fears with me,

The rare occasions when I could lend my strength to you,

I miss you Dad,

I wish I’d told you a thousand – no – a million times more that I love you!

I wish…

Happy Father's Day...

I remember all the hours you spent playing catch with us and helping out at practices and games.

The broad smile on your face the day you helped me buy my first car.

How well you always treated my friends no matter who they were or how they looked.

The strength you showed when I left for Vietnam.

How proud you were the day I graduated from college.

The miles you jogged at the health center to stay in shape at 60.

How hard you fought your cancer and won... for a while.

I remember the last few days, the last hug and hand shake..

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Hero

41 years ago today a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, 64-13116 assigned to the 243rd Freight Train was hovering over its eleventh sling load of the day. They were resupplying Korean firebases in the area surrounding Phu Hiep, RVN. The canvas rings for 3 loads - fuel, water and boxed items weighing 3 tons was slipped onto the hook. A young FE, who had just turned 20 called the load up and off the ground. At 30’ the loads all cleared and the helicopter continued to rise until the loads were at 50’.
After a hover check the copilot began his takeoff, but at transition to flight around 100’ off the ground the #2 engine failed. Rotor rpms dropped and the helicopter began settling back toward the earth. The pilot took control; the young FE punched the loads free with the aircraft still 60’ in the air and then the #1 engine began to fail. The aircraft lurched forward and took a nose high attitude. Unable to maintain control of the aircraft or altitude the helicopter hit a 9’ high berm making up part of the base’s perimeter and at the same time the aft rotors struck fence posts on the berm causing the blades to separate from the ship. At that point the aft section of the aircraft became airborne and pivoted around the forward rotor system. The helicopter hit the ground on its right side just inside the perimeter wire setting off claymore mines and flares. It caught fire instantly.
The pilot, copilot and crew chief were able to exit the right side cockpit door followed by the door gunner. It’s believed that the Flight Engineer and the only passenger, a Korean Liaison officer, were thrown to the back of aircraft when the nose rose after #1 failed. They were not seen by anyone after the impact. Fire completely consumed the entire aircraft in five minutes or less.
After analyzing the remains of the engines it was determined that the cause of the #2 stoppage was the failure of a small 2 to 3 inch drive shaft  inside the fuel control module and that the aircraft was outside of the flight limitations for recovery on a single engine (something that was done on a regular basis - usually without any consequences).
The young 20 year old Flight Engineer was my friend, Steven Kearns. He had joined the company as a maintenance tech about three months into my tour . We shared a number of things, not the least of which was a desire to fly in the worst way. As a team leader I taught him as much as I could – unfortunately he wasn't assigned to my team. Steven was a hard worker, putting in time and effort well beyond most of the other guys. When I moved to the TI shack we didn't get to see as much of each other, but I knew when I was checking out his team’s work on one of the aircraft that it was going to be done right!
Steven wasn’t all just business, he joined with all the guys taking time off to party or just have a good time. But there were never any excuses; he was always there the next morning ready to go!  That cheshire like grin and curly hair just kinda lit up your day.  We would occasionally talked of home – he was from Massachusetts and was looking forward to getting back there as soon as possible. He finally made it into the flight platoon as a crew chief and he was a damn good one. He crewed for me many times and I always knew I could depend on him to do a good job – the first time. As a Flight Engineer he was top notch, it was in his character. Do whatever you have to do! An example of that was one afternoon a helicopter crashed on landing at our airstrip. He was working on his ship on our flight line when it happened. He was the first guy there and he and another Freight Trainer pulled the pilots from the wreckage with no regard for their own safety. For that he was awarded the Bronze Star. That’s the kind of young man Steven Kearns was. On that fateful day in 1971 he exhibited that same character; he stayed his post and did his job without regard for his own safety.
I was back in states on extension leave when the accident occurred. I was devastated, it couldn’t happen, it didn’t happen! Once back in country I talked with everybody I could. I just didn’t believe it. Phu Hiep was a regular run for my ship, and I found out from a guy working in Ops that if I’d been there it would have been my ship’s rotation slot. To this day I can’t reconcile that…
Just last year I finally got up the courage and resolve to meet his family, his mother and two sisters – Nancy and Sue. To this day I have the note his mother so graciously wrote back in ’71 tucked away in a safe place. And I have Steven with me every day. In forty years I could count on one hand the number of days he did not cross mind, that I did not thank him for his sacrifice, that I did not wonder “what if I’d been there instead”…
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Massachusetts Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial you’ll find his name carved in one of the stone obelisks. And you can also find a replica of a letter he wrote home in November of ’70 – one of a very few chosen to be a part of the memorial. 
In the grand scheme of things, his sacrifice may not seem like much… but to me and a number of his “buddies” in the 243rd it is… We all knew what the possibilities were and yet we dedicated our time and efforts to getting the job done and done right. Unfortunately not all of us made it through.
As solemn an occasion as I would like this to be I also think it would be befitting as a celebration; a celebration of the commitment of my generation, despite all the chaos, to our country, to our freedom, to our families, to our friends and to ourselves. We were prepared to give all and some of us were called upon to fulfill that commitment.
Steve, buddy, rest in peace… you are MY hero and deserving of much, much more.
Loads clear…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

In the foxhole...

I’ve sat down and tried to write a hundred times or more what and how the relationship is between men who have experienced war side by side. How it’s different than any other bond I’ve ever felt. You can talk about love relationships between a man and a woman, with your parents, with your lifelong friends, your “BFF” or whomever and most people get that. They’ve been there, they understand. There are words to explain it – words that make sense to almost everybody. I have yet to find the adjectives, the verbs, the context that conveys the feeling there is between guys that “share a foxhole”. 

It’s not like a first date and getting to know someone over time, it’s almost instantaneous. You hear people say they’d give up everything for so and so, they’d protect them with their own lives… push comes to shove, prove it, do it, every day… nowhere does that happen on a regular basis EXCEPT on a battlefield.

You look at the guy next to you “in the foxhole”, you know where he is, what he’s feeling, what he’s fearing, what he needs, what he wants. It doesn’t matter if he’s black or white, redneck or hippie, Christian or atheist, tall or short, married or single, or anything else. He has your back and you have his, with the ultimate sacrifice on the line. Sure you want to survive, you want to see home again, but there’s something beyond “me” that creeps in. A realization that you’re not the only one, there are others just as deserving of survival. You have to truly be willing to make that sacrifice, you have to be able to communicate that somehow and receive the same in return. Not very often are words spoken, its things as simple as a hug, a handshake, a look into their eyes, a slap on the back, a hand up. There is an intense connection that takes place, one that brings both trepidation and equanimity – calmness. Once a sincere commitment has been made and understood it will remain forever.

Down deep inside there are no nagging little questions about can I or should I or would I. You have the techniques that the military taught you, the tools of war and survival surround you; you have the obligation you made to yourself, your buddies and your country and you’re prepared to make good on them. Then one day it comes and you’re in that place, that position you prayed and hoped you or anyone would never be in. Chaos exists all around you and something clicks inside, somehow you just react. There’s no internal debate, no thought process, no scientific method to follow, no if-then. You move; you do what comes instinctively, using what resources, training and experience you have to get things done. Inside there’s no realization of what’s going on, your mind and body are set on achieving that one goal, that promise you made to yourself and those around you.

Imagine standing in the middle of a football field next to a downed helicopter surrounded by dikes and trees. Your three buddies have established a three point perimeter around you. Your air cover has been called away and you’d already sent your chopper to base to pick up the parts you need to fix and fly the cobra out. The four of you are there alone with no more than a basic load of ammunition for each of 3 M60’s, a couple of M16’s and your 45 caliber sidearm. The first “thump” was barely discernible but the next two or three were as clear as the day. All the mortar rounds impacted well behind the helicopter. Don’t stop to think that you’re standing next to hundreds of gallons of JP4, two rocket pods loaded with explosives and hundreds of rounds of 30 caliber and 7.62 ammunition. You move, finding the lowest depression you can 30 yards away from the helicopter. Your 45 is in your hand, locked and loaded as you scan the area. You’re the senior NCO, what’s your plan? You immediately start taking small arms fire from the tree line to the front of the ship, 60 yards away. No one is visible, no flashes, no markers of any kind. Your point perimeter opens up with his M60, just cutting leaves, as the incoming small arms fire continues. Unmistakably the sound and bullets of two or three AKs pierce the air eventually kicking up dust clouds around the point M60’s position and the front of the ship. From the two positions in the rear covering fire emerges. Glancing back they’re both exposed but continue to fire giving away their positions.

Without thinking, you know that the M-70, turret and 30 cal are electrically operated, you know that the aircraft electrical system is operational, you’ve been in the front seat before, you’ve fired the M-70 on test flights, you know where the 30 cal controls are, you know one well placed mortar, or a couple of AK rounds could set off the whole aircraft like a display on the fourth of July. You hear yourself yelling “cover” as you sprint to the chopper and vault into the front seat. Circuit breakers are reset, switches put in position and the aircraft begins to shake as a plume of dust and smoke rise from around the left wing. The chopper rocks back while in the distance the rounds pepper the dike area. The incoming fire stops briefly before starting again targeting the helicopter alone. A different set of switches, the M-70 thumps a few rounds into the same area. Suddenly two figures appear sprinting behind the dike headed for a tree line. All three M60s open up and the M70 drops a couple of rounds between them. As the dust settles, the firing stops - waiting for the next opportunity to make the kill. But all remains silent and then the aircraft radio crackles with traffic and the sound of incoming choppers increases in volume. The parts arrive, the cover aircraft have returned. Fixed and flyable in minutes the cobra is gone.

No one knows this story except for four young men left to fend for themselves for a couple of hours in a friendly zone, in a country at war and in a time far away. No one bothered to report it, there was no confirmation of kills, no damage to the aircraft, no physical wounds to anyone. What happened there has happened thousands of times before and since. There isn’t a hero here, just young men committed to doing what needed to be done and trusting enough in each other to believe that it would be. For some that commitment will never be tested and yet never be doubted either. For others it may come just once, but for a few every day or night or mission. Many will survive their test and so will their buddies. Some will not. The true reward for them is not a colorful ribbon and a place of honor as part of a list somewhere. The true reward is that others will take their place, will offer all that they have in the name of friendship, freedom, honor, country and pride.

Hundreds of thousands of American service men and women have offered all that they could give and it was taken from them in the name of freedom and brotherhood. Many thousands more offered but have not been asked to relinquish their tender. Behind them, alongside them and in front of them stand thousands more willing to make the same sacrifice. Thank God that they are there!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Under the nose

“Under the nose, chief”
“I have it, off 20, forward 10, off 15, off 10, left 5…hold it”
”Hooks open, rings on – all clear”
“Slack, slack, tight – loads off”
“Off 5, 10, 15, 20…”
“Gotta spin sir, slow her down… straight and true now… no swing”

First load of the day was off the ground and we were headed to a Korean firebase with a basic load of 105 rounds and a few boxes of c-rats. The door gunner and my chief relaxed up front while I lay in the hole watching the load. It had been an early morning like most, 4 AM on the flight line opening panels and running through the preflight check with my crew chief.

The Wobblies showed up a little later and I walked with them as they rechecked everything we’d just looked over. Sign off on the logbook and we were rolled out of the revetment. A couple of more “in the seat checks” and the APU whined to life pressurizing the hydraulic system. Watching from out back I listened to the cockpit talk as they fired number one. With a puff of unspent JP4 the turbine began its slow run up and the blades started to rotate. Then number two came on line and the blade rotation accelerated.

The smell of burning jet fuel filled the swirling air. With both engines on line I climbed the ramp closing it behind me. As the pilots began running the engines up to speed I walked the length of my ship. Listening for the usual grunts and groans she’d go through every morning, slight shake from that damn low right front gear. The ic crackled – “not fixed yet?”

“No, sir but it’s getting better, we’ll try again tonight”, I lamented. We’d already adjusted everything from the tire and shock pressure to the travel height.

By now we were rolling off the flight line and onto the taxiway. Then the radio and intercom came to life again with taxi instructions, weather, wind direction etc. She finally rose off the ground to hover for SAS check and then we were cleared for takeoff. Her tail lifted and nose dipped slightly as the two up front pushed and pulled this and that taking us from a hover to flight speed in no time.

“Cowboy” I chuckled to myself with a grin as my chief and I exchanged glances. He threw a thumbs up and so did the gunner. I laughed as I reached to the front transmission sump to feel the “good vibrations”, glanced at the SAS closet and then headed toward the ramp. Checking things out along the way, tool box was tied down, M70 in place with a belt of ammo, hook door was closed and then near the aft tranny I reached up to gently touch the flight control rod set before ending with the aft transmission sump. She was running well, another good day in the air.

I lowered the ramp to flat and pulled up a seat to enjoy the flight. I was always proud that my ship never had a scrub because of mechanical issues. My chief and I worked hard to keep her airworthy, after all we had to fly on her too. As a former TI and maintenance leader I knew a lot about her. And as we flew together I learned even more. I memorized her voice; she was always talking to me. I knew the “good vibrations” and the bad ones, how hot she’d run, the slight chatter from the next to last section of drive shaft, the gurgles from the pumps on the aft transmission – even how many full pumps it would take to get the hydraulic system to turn and fire the APU.

There’s nothing like flying in a hook, lots of windows and your own back porch to sit on. It always amazed me how free, how uninhibited I felt once we were in the air. Sure I was sitting on a few tons of metal that miraculously stayed in the air. But all the intercom talk, the whine of engines and transmissions, the threat from below would suddenly disappear. I was there all alone looking out across the landscape and into the blue sky, feeling like I could step off that ramp and become part of the atmosphere or effortlessly glide through the air like a bird. Free to go anywhere, to meld with the puffy clouds or mix with the occasional rain squall. Nowhere else have I ever felt a feeling like that, so all encompassing, joyful, exuberant.
The chatter of a pair of M60’s would bring me back to earth so speak. The pilot had cleared us to run a weapons check and both the gunner and my chief opened up with a few short bursts spewing a few cartridges that made their way along the flooring like a handful of grasshoppers. Not long after we were settling in over the PZ and it was time to go to work.

“Under the nose, chief…”

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Remember

I Remember
The sound is deafening, even through my flight helmet, as I struggle to see through the dust cloud spreading out below the helicopter. My lungs and mouth fill with a heavy mix of musty moist air, dust, sweat and the sweet acrid odor of jet exhaust. “Loads off 20, 15,10, 5, slings slack, loads clear”. I struggle to stand as the nose of the helicopter pitches down and the tail rises – the pilot is cowboying the ship away from the drop zone as fast as possible. I listen for the sounds and feel for the vibrations that I’ve memorized over that past few months that tell me everything is running the way it should be. The intercom crackles with seemingly unintelligible phrases causing the door gunners to quickly begin squeezing off long bursts from their M60 machine guns - sweeping the canopy of green that is disappearing all too slowly below. As I move toward the back of the ship the noise level changes. I whirl to face the pocket of silence as my helmet fills with a low moan from the earphones and I watch my crew chief slump to the metal flooring.
            Somehow I’m suddenly on the floor beside him; his helmet’s rolling across the pitching floor and his head is in my lap. My hands are pressed against his body trying to hold his life inside. The helicopter pitches rolls and climbs in evasive maneuvers. He squeezes my hand for a few seconds, as our eyes stay riveted on each other’s. We have no words to say. Then as the ship steadies his grip begins to fail and an eerie stillness engulfs us.

            I see it, I feel it, I hear it, I smell it and I taste it all now, over 40 years later, just like it happened a second ago.
            I have a letter of appreciation from the department of the army, signed by the president of the United States – like so many others have.
            I have an army commendation medal, an air medal and a Viet Nam service ribbon - like so many others have.
            I lost a very close friend in war – like so many others have.

            At 20 years old I lost my invincibility, my naiveté, and my trust in the longevity and value of close relationships.

            At 50 I was still struggling to rebuild that trust, to relearn the skills, and to be viable part of valued friendship.

            At 60 nothing has changed, I close my eyes and it all rushes back just like it was yesterday…

The words and art are mine as are the memories... Load's Clear...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fallen Soldier

Memorial Day is coming soon, those that know me, know my passion for patriotism, for my fellow service men and women - from all generations. I discovered this poem a few years back and have chosen to post it here as a first remembrance. The author is unknown, however with words so well selected I'd like to think he or she was a fellow veteran. Enuf said...

Fallen Soldier All Alone

Fallen soldier far from home.

Trickling down his face a tear,

forgetting how it feels to fear

death and all its fate and glory.

Now it’s here, no need to worry.

Fallen soldier waiting for the end

Fallen soldier far from home

He’s one of those they’ll all forget;

but he’s the one thing you should never forget.

The life he lived, the goals he set,

the ones he loved, the ones who wait

to see his nearly forgotten face.

Fallen soldier all alone

Fallen soldier far from home

Now breathing’s just a waste of breath

and living’s just a waste of death

as he searches for a new address;

a brand new home free of loneliness.

Fallen soldier all alone

Fallen soldier far from home

Lying motionless on the ground,

the battle raging all around.

For now he is not all alone.

This fallen soldier is welcomed home.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

A few years ago I was challenged with writing my mother’s eulogy. Not necessarily a daunting task, after all I had 60+ years of experiences, anecdotes and stories to draw from. As I started to pull a few things together a dear friend made a suggestion that I eventually followed. I decided to print the full version here in honor of Mother’s Day and my mother.

          I could spend time relating a few stories from growing up around my mom. Most would be very similar to the experiences you have had; scrambling to get dozens of cookies decorated for home room holiday parties in grade school, the time that she gave to the PTA and how disconcerting it was to have your mother on a first name basis with the principal of your school, the dozens of baseball games she kept score at, hundreds of trips to football or baseball or scouts that the old station wagon was packed with kids, the high school activities and dances she helped chaperone, the extra effort she had to give to my twin brother when he was diagnosed with diabetes and later on the letters that came like clockwork while I was in the Army – she kept mine neatly bundled up near the bottom of her cedar chest.
          We all have stories to tell about growing up and then spending the holidays or joining the family gatherings as adults. Beyond that I have a more unique perspective about my mother than most might have. I chose to return home and spend time caring for her – much like she cared for my brothers and me.  I became responsible for paying the bills, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, making doctor’s appointments, keeping her safe and clean and warm. During those years her mental health deteriorated to the point where I was forced to place her in a full time care facility. But during the time we spent together prior to that I learned a great deal about her and our family.
          One of her daily rituals was to read the newspaper from front to back, keeping it neatly folded and placed beside her favorite chair when she was done. In the beginning I wasn’t sure how much she really understood and retained. Then during dinner she’d recount something she’d read that morning and how she felt about it. On good days we’d watch baseball or football games together. To my surprise she would know most of the player’s names and positions. Our conversations would drift to little league games that had happened decades before. She would always have this little smile and glint in her eyes as she spoke.
          Occasionally she’d drag out the old photo albums with pictures from “the farm” in Littleton where she grew up. She’d relate stories I’d heard my grandmother tell many years ago. The next time it would pictures of my dad’s family or our family. Always there would be some anecdote that would reveal a side of her or dad or my grandparents that I didn’t know existed. She was most proud of the ballooning pictures that documented the hundreds of flights that she helped crew for my twin brother. She didn’t fly with him that often but she’d talk about how much she loved to watch all of the balloons “glide into the blue”. Few people knew how much she feared for my brother’s safety and how it scared her so much.
          She loved going for a ride in the car after spending so much time in the house. We’d pick different routes to travel, passing by old landmarks that I hoped she would know or remember. Some she would recognize and how some had disappeared and had been replaced. She always marveled at the number of cars and people on the streets. “Where did they all come from? What do they all do?”
          Through all of those years I gained a new and different kind of respect for her. A new insight into what shaped her, her life and eventually mine. As the “good” days dwindled away it became harder for her. And the frustration she suffered was enormous. Eventually she couldn’t tell me my name but sometimes that wry little smile would appear and her eyes would light up again if only for a moment or two and she’d squeeze my hand or give me a hug.
          Below is the poem I’m Free – a framed copy of it appeared on her headboard not long after my dad passed away. She insisted on having it, a family portrait and a picture of my brother’s balloon with her when she moved into long term care. I never really understood the significance for her, but certainly if she could she would tell us not to grieve for her – because now she is free.


Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free
I'm following the path God has chosen for me.
I took His hand when I heard him call;
I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way;
I've now found peace at the end of day.

If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joys.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss;
Oh yes, these things, I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow
Look for the sunshine of tomorrow.

My life's been full, I savored much;
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seems all to brief;
Don't lengthen your pain with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and peace to thee,
God wanted me now-He set me free

           Take a few moments in the next few days and learn something new about your mom. If your opportunity has passed, like mine, rekindle a few choice memories and send her your smile...
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Mom Said...

 Looking out the front window into the dimming light I watched a mother and her 3 boys walking down the street. The kids were messing around and I heard the tone of her voice but not the words she spoke through the open window. Not sure exactly what was said but the 3 young men fell into line as they moved out of sight. That little incident triggered a few memories; I was one of three boys with a mother who would raise her voice just a bit and the three of us would straighten up --- for a while.

My mother used a few choice phrases in her time, some I'm sure were very similar to mothers everywhere. I think they call them “momisms” now. I started a list of the ones I remembered her using the most, thinking that it would be a short list – not so… I stopped at fifty… I thought I’d share a few. I’m sure you’ve heard them or maybe used one or two at least once or a version of them. My list of “Mom said…”

Money doesn't grow on trees you know.
If I talked to my mother like you talk to me....
Always wear clean underwear; you never know what might happen.
Be careful or you'll put your eye out.
What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
You have enough dirt behind those ears to grow potatoes!
Close that door! Were you born in a barn?
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
Don't put that in your mouth; you don't know where it's been!
Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.
Don't eat those; they will stunt your growth.
If you don't eat those, you will stunt your growth.
What's meant to be is meant to be.
I hope that when you grow up, you have kids "Just Like you"!
Because I'm your mother that's why.
This is why we can't have nice things.
If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.
Eat your vegetables; there are children in China who would be happy to have them to eat!
If you fall out of that tree & break you leg, don't come running to me.
"Cheer up, the worst is yet to come." Usually said in advance of being grounded.
Someday your face is going to stick like that.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Yes, I *AM* the boss of you.
Just wait till your father gets home.
No dessert till you clean your plate.
I brought you into this world and I can take you OUT !!
I've got eyes in the back of my head, that's how
Get that thing out of your nose!( or ear)
Just you wait until you have kids of your own - then you'll understand
Honestly,You'd lose your head if it wasn't screwed on!
Don't use that tone with me!
You better wipe that smile off you face before I do it for you.
"I don't know" is not an answer.
As long as you live under MY roof, you'll follow MY rules.
I would have never talked to my mother like that!
Don't make me come in there!
Don't roll your eyes at me.
Don't use that tone with me!
I'm not going to ask you again
Don't sit so close to the TV - you'll ruin your eyes.
Don't make me stop this car!
I didn't ask who put it there, I said pick it up!
You didn't learn that in THIS house!
LOOK at me when I'm talking to you.
I was not put on this earth to entertain you.
Why? Because I said so!

Mother's Day is just a few days away - don't forget her. Why? Because she's your Mother!

Monday, April 16, 2012

For All It was a Life Changing Experience

It’s been a while since I posted anything on the blog. Another one of my passions has been taking up my time. I was busy building a web site and no that’s not a passion of mine. I was truly surprised how relatively easy it was to put together. With a little trial and error and a lot of organization I think it turned out pretty well. Why shouldn’t I – I made it…LOL But that’s not what I want to write about. The site was for the 243rd ASHC – the Chinook helicopter company I served with during the first part of my tour in Vietnam – a bunch of guys I really grew up with and have the greatest amount of admiration for.

Once I made the commitment I began pulling stuff together to make them part of the site. I spent countless hours reviewing nearly 1000 pictures of guys I knew, guys I had heard about, aircraft I flew on or repaired, loads like the ones my ship carried, where we worked, where we partied, some LZs that I recognized and some I did not, the places where we lived and the places where a few of us died. I read names that I know, names that I think I know and many that I don’t know. I’ve read a number of magazine articles, government documents and personal histories. Viewed a few hours of video and listened to audio recordings.

Countless times a name or picture would appear that would trigger memories that are 40+ years old. Maybe a little gray, maybe a little out of focus but real enough. To be honest more than their share brought tears to my eyes and sadness to my heart, but then the next a laugh and a smile. Most however still bring a certain curiosity – where is he now? Has he survived coming home as well as he did being there? I know I am one of the lucky ones, no disabilities, no health problems from orange, no debilitating emotional issues. On the first page of the site I wrote, “Some “gave all” and did not return, for some it was their only military experience, for some it was part of their chosen career – for all it was a life changing experience.” More seem to have suffered more dearly from their tours than others.

Listening to the sounds and watching the pictures stream across the screen had a dramatic effect. Seeing helicopters like mine do the work we did, the expertise of the pilots and crews and knowing all of the support it took to get them there. And oddly enough the sounds, the sounds of a CH47 at startup, at flight rpms, SAS check, of lifting a load… they seem to have had the most affect. I would replay a video, close my eyes, just listen and be transported back 40 years. I could smell the exhaust of the APU and then the turbine engines while standing out behind the ship at startup. I can still remember my ship’s sounds, the forward and aft transmission whines and grinds, the slap of the blades through the heavy air. I memorized them and if they changed while we were in the air I knew there might be problems. I knew which gear was soft, how fast the hook would engage or disengage, how much swing and sway she would take from a load, what snapped and popped and whined and wheezed – just like my first car.

I tried desperately to banish the emotionalism, the personal involvement by making it like a stroll through my high school annual. But there is no connection, no link, no comparison. There is something about being with a bunch of guys whose lives depend on you and whom you depend upon. It’s not like we all sat down, held hands and recited passages from the Bible or the maintenance manual or whatever. There seems to be an inherent realization of what’s expected from you and what you must offer. Nobody asks can you? Will you? You do your damndest to get it done, you don’t think first, no hesitation, it just gets done. Everyone, in my case, is in the same helicopter – damn right “I” want to survive so I will do everything I can to make that happen – everyday! And if I do, everyone else will and that works every time, right? Not always… I lost a good friend who stayed too long doing his “job” to try and save his aircraft. All of the crew survived but him. That same feeling exists today for each of them, whatever it takes I'm willing to help - call me, I'm there.

There is something about the vulnerability that you have in life, to trust it to someone you just met a week ago, in a situation where your possibility of survival is severely limited - that establishes an enduring bond. That bond is shared across the board – makes no difference if you were in a foxhole at the Bulge or a hot LZ in II Corp or taking fire in Afghanistan. Not everyone has been there, not everyone has faced the initial fear, not everyone has had the resolve to do what needed to be done. Those that have, have earned their place, deserve their place in my heart and the hearts of other “veterans”. Beyond that, those who gave their lives in places like Lexington, Saratoga, Bull Run, Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Midway, Anzio, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Pusan, Inchon, Dak To, Khe San, Grenada, Kuwait, Bosnia, Somalia, Kandahar, Fallujah, Basra and countless other battlefields of the past and those yet to be named all have and will have a special place.

There are few people in my life that I could honor by describing them as my hero. I have named every man I served with in Vietnam to that list as well as every man and woman who has served this country in the armed forces in an effort to protect our freedom and sovereignty. Not everyone will understand what I’ve written or feel, not everyone has experienced what I have, not everyone will care, not everyone….

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Looking out the front window into the fullness of the night, cold air creeps in the small opening bringing with it a familiar aroma. Looking closer as I wipe the sleep from my eyes a gentle rain has begun covering the surfaces with reflections from the street lamp. The sweet clean fragrance of the gentle shower seems to hint of the new beginning of nature's cycle. Darkness hides the earth as it draws the moisture inside in hopes of fulfilling the seasons promise of vibrant greens and pastels, once its warmed again by the sun's radiance. A spring rain in the middle of the night... time for more sleep.... morning is soon upon me... maybe to dream...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vietnam Veterans Day, March 30th

March 30th has been declared Vietnam Veterans Day by the Congress of the United States... As a Vietnam Veteran I've elected to post this video here. The original was done for Veterans Day last year. It didn't have the complete narration and for this version I've only used pictures taken of and by the 243rd ASHC - my hook company for the first part of my tour... Welcome home to my fellow Vietnam Veterans!

I must have watched this video a hundred times putting it together, gathering pictures and listening to the sound track in the background. I really didn't have to fight to find the words I wrote and spoke, they seemed to just roll out into place. But seeing the faces, hearing the sounds always seemed to bring on a sense of loss and of love at the same time. Loss of the friendships over the years as we all went our ways, the death of a a good friend I flew with, the love and camaraderie I experienced as we worked  and flew and drank and lived day to day together. Looking out the front window into the dark, images of twisted safety wire, red hydraulic fluid, OD green sheet metal, roads of psp, sounds of whining auxiliary power units, the thunder of 6 blades churning up hurricane force winds, the spinning growl of transmissions and turbine engines, the acrid odor of burnt jet fuel, musty smells of 100 percent humidity, spent gunpowder, barbecued pig, tepid beer, burning refuse... all crowd my head. Tears begin cloud my eyes... so young, so proud, so invincible, so courageous - so vulnerable, so naive... I remember, I will always remember...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leftover Thoughts

Just a couple of leftover thoughts taking up space. Spring is near, thought I'd clear out the wintry words in hopes of replacing them with new, vibrant, colorful and warmer musings... 

One Saturday Morning
Golden colors hanging precariously in the cool morning Rays of light have lost their strength, barely warming the air
The stillness broken by flashes of movement and chatter in the dark limbs above,
A smoky flavor drifts on the nearly still autumn dawn.
Hints of white rest in the early morning shadows
Sheets of translucent crystals wrap the fallen leaves masking their colors
Waiting precariously for the warming shafts of light, they will eventually melt away to reform in the cold night air into new designs and patterns.

Flat dull grey skies have suddenly stolen the morning light, The bright sharpness of a new day blurred into a near monochrome,
The air is cold and uninviting…
Block the muted morning with a nest of warm folds and a soft pillow, try to reclaim your last dream if only for a few more moments…

A band of brilliance cuts its way across the room from a break in the curtains, struggling to light the room and bring in the new day,
The blurred shroud of sleep begins to slip away, replaced too quickly by the day’s agenda
The cat rolls over, protected by the folds of the bedding, hiding from the increasing intensity as you're forced to gradually emerge to meet the morning…

Out the front window...
Just stepped outside for a few minutes to watch the display of snow flakes.. something is so intriguing to me about the way mother nature works. The physics of it all I understand, it is the beauty, the aura, the presence that exists surrounding the event. Sure we can pump water through jets and "make" snow... but not nature's crystals...
Beyond that is the quiet, the solitude that seems to accompany them as if to eliminate any distractions and concentrate your perception, your feelings on the fall of the flakes through the crisp cold air.
Taken in small amounts there are no fears, increase the velocity of the wind, the volume of the crystals, the colder temperatures and the power emerges causing some to panic...
Yet I could stand in the onslaught and be simply over whelmed by the power - not fear it but begin to realize how dynamic, how important the event and how miniscule, how small a part I have in the scheme of things... 

Just a thought seeping out

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To My Valentine

Sitting here looking out the front window alone on this valentine evening I have been rummaging through my mind and memories of love that I once shared with someone. No matter who or where my thoughts take me I seem to always return to one place, one person. If I could have her for my valentine today I would share this with her - again. It’s something I wrote to her with all of heart and soul, yet it was lost somehow.
I've been trying to figure out what "it" is about you that has me so enthralled, so captivated in such a short period of time. I have a mental list about a mile long of things about you, that you do, that you are... I finally decided what it is... "It" is not one thing or two things..."it" is YOU! It's not a list of many attributes - it's the sum of all of them put together.
"It" is the way you make feel when I'm around you. So secure, so comfortable. I am able to tell you things that I would never share with anyone else. There is no feeling of vulnerability... I feel like I can talk to you, tell you everything and anything. I have never spent as much time talking with anyone about me and my feelings - and you let me. You listen, you respond, you react and you share along with me. I have never experienced that before.
"It" is you... you are beautiful to me. You have all the right parts in all the right places. From your sparkling eyes to your lovely ankles! You excite me whenever I see you! That trademark smile and expressive eyes, I melt inside every time you share them with me.
I want to reach out and touch you at every possible moment. Just to place my hands on your shoulders, put my hand in yours; lightly caress your soft skin. It sends shivers throughout me that are multiplied a thousand times when YOU touch ME. There is warmth, a surge of electricity when we touch that I have not felt before with anyone else.
You have a sparkle, a vitality about you that sweeps me up. I feel your energy, your enthusiasm and you take me with you. I love to hear your voice, whether it's over the phone or from you sitting next to me. It is so comforting, so lyrical sometimes.
I have never been so totally engaged by anyone before in my life. You make my day when I can talk to you, when I can see you smile, when I can hold your hand, when I can kiss you. I am so completely enthralled by you... Not by this or that... by "you", you are "it".
I have never been as happy, I have never been as excited about being with someone, about sharing with someone. I have never looked forward to tomorrow the way I do now, because of you! No one has ever done to me what you have done!
"You" ARE "it".....
I feel so fortunate to have found you, to have shared with you, to have had the opportunity for you to be a part of me, a part of my life...
There are no words to express it... I could write a hundred stories and never be able to convey what I'm feeling... I must rely on a single word, just four letters that I hope have as much of an impact for you as they have for me... I love you! Believe me, I do. I have never been so sincere, so ardent, so definite, so confident about anything...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Try This!

                I was sitting here looking out the front window into the night and I realized that Valentine’s Day is getting close. I know a lot of guys that are not quite adept at writing as they could be – especially when it comes to things like feelings and emotions. Some struggle terribly just finding and signing a card. So just for fun I thought I’d throw out a few ideas, suggestions I guess. 
                But first a few pointers; number one – don’t text, don’t email, don’t type. No matter how sloppy your handwriting something written in your own hand carries far more weight than any typeset. If you have to send it electronically write it down and scan it. Second it shouldn’t be written on a grocery store card or office copy paper – pick up some nice stationery – you know like the stuff you were supposed to write thank you notes on for your (pick one) birthday, Christmas or wedding gifts. You could make it even more interesting by choosing something that’s colored. Try neon, maybe pastels – you might even get something manly… a dark tan or blue or burgundy. NO borders!

                Now take some time to actually think about what makes her special to you. What does she do that no one else has ever done – to you, for you, with you? Things like:

You come with the quiet moments or the last few minutes before sleep, sometimes in the hurrying of day to day life. You burst into my thoughts at any time and from any direction.

My hands ache to hold you to caress, poke, tickle or just a give you a fleeting touch on the hand or shoulder

I love to hear the words you speak, your classic laugh, groan of mock resistance or sighs of pleasure and fast paced breath.

I can close my eyes and paper the walls of my mind with the glow of your smile

Deep inside of me is a place, a place touched only by you, full of the warmth from our journey through life, from forever lasting memories of us together and the endless possibilities to come.

My thoughts of you bring out the fullness and depth of my love for you, this is how it’s been, how it is now and will continue to be.

Won’t you be my valentine?

                So it doesn’t sound like you? IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO! This is a special day, a day when you reach down deep inside and proclaim your love for her. Tell her how special she is! Throw in a description of that one special time or the first time or the last time!

                Hmmm, actually I think a man in love with a woman, truly in love, should treat everyday – well almost every day as Valentine’s Day. I’m not talking about chocolates and diamonds. How many times did you tell her you loved her today? Took her hand in yours just to hold? Gave her a hug? Gave her your smile? Shared her burdens? Really listened to what she had to say?

                Enuf soap box… Hope ya have a great Valentine’s Day! Wonder how many ladies will read this and use an idea or two?