Have you ever had someone tell you something that sticks in your memory and just won’t let go? A couple of weeks ago it happened to me when I met newly arrived Amelia Island resident from Kentucky, Mike Creed, while sipping a beer on the balcony of the Salty Pelican.
While discussing military experiences, our lives as corporate gypsies, island life, and so on, this West Point graduate, former 101st Airborne paratrooper, pilot, and corporate executive, told me a story that I can’t let go of. I was so impressed I asked him to put it down on paper and send it me so I could share it.
Here it is in Mike’s words:
Several years ago I took my then 10 year old son, Ben, to an air show in Florida. We were right at the edge of the runway as an old C-47 roared past us, lumbering into the air with its’ jump door open, taking jumpers aloft to start the show.
As we watched it, Ben asked me if I’d ever jumped out of one like that. I told him no, all my jumps had been in newer planes, and explained that the C-47 was used in WW2 by the first paratroopers, the men who jumped into Sicily, Normandy, and such.
An old man seated with his wife next to us turned to me as I talked of my predecessors from the 101st Airborne, and in heavily accented English, asked me: “You paratrooper?” “Yes, sir”, I replied, “I was, a long time ago.” He stuck out a hand gnarled by time, gripped mine hard as he shook, said: “I also paratrooper. I was with the Polish Brigade”
Astonished, I looked at the old man anew, the craggy face, the blue eyes clear and wise with the lessons of a life fully lived, the smile in appreciation of a comrade, me.
I found myself deeply honored by this realization, yet from my studies of history, I doubted that I was worthy of that honor, for here before me was a warrior with few peers. I asked him “Sir, did you jump into Arnhem with the British First Paras? I’ve read of your terrible casualties that day.” The blue eyes softened, saddened by memory both distant and starkly immediate. His voice lowered, “Yes, I lost many friends that day.”
He paused then, obviously remembering the faces, suddenly brightened. “But that was also the day I met my wife!” and he turned to the lady seated beside him, smiling down at her, she wordlessly returning his smile. “We liberated her from a concentration camp that day. We have been married now 56 years!” His eyes softened again, this time with love, and he gently reached for her tiny hand, squeezed just enough. Again she smiled, and I studied her a moment, saw the grandmother you hugged, but not too hard, her tiny frame frail, delicate as a songbird.
Again the old paratrooper looked up, said “My war not as bad as hers”, and he nodded towards her legs, the scars, obvious testament to the tearing of shrapnel, the searing of past burns. I stammered “But how?”, could not think of how to ask. His voice lowered, a sudden edge of constrained fury “She was captured and tortured by the Nazis. She fought as a partisan in the Warsaw ghetto, her wounds from when she threw a Molotov Cocktail down the hatch of a Nazi Tiger tank. She was 17 years old.”
My ideas of what a veteran is changed that day. May we all get to know the vets next door, recognize the scars on their bodies and souls, and thank them.
That 10-year-old son, Ben, that Mike escorted to the air show in Stuart some 12 years just graduated in May from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and will soon be reporting to Navy Flight School in Pensacola. There’s another story about dad and Ben, flying together when Ben was just 12, and how he saved both their lives as their small plane’s wing clipped a tree during a very unplanned emergency landing on a two-lane highway, but I’ll save that one for later.
The next time you’re out having a cold one, may you be fortunate enough to sit next to someone as interesting as Mike Creed who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Turning The Other Cheek: If you’re naked you can’t serve booze in public places in Fernandina Beach. That makes sense I suppose as it keeps the city free of seedy strip clubs and the creeps and criminals that hang out in them. However, we live in a beach community and pretty, shapely gals serving up cold beers, shooters, etc. is a common sight in such places and poses no harm or threat, and in fact makes the bars all that more fun. However, it appears one local resident became unhinged recently and called the local police to report that popular, pretty and curvy server Crystal Foster, a bartender at the Hammerhead on Fletcher, was not adequately clothed, despite the fact she was wearing more than most gals on the beach. The police were called by this fellow who was upset at Ms. Foster or the pub apparently for reasons other than his mock outrage. Ms. Foster says she’s never met her accuser and adds that “the police were super nice” and their investigation uncovered that being undressed was not an issue. Chief Jim Hurley, tells that me that the intent of city ordinance 10-3 titled “Nudity, exposure of human body prohibited in alcoholic beverage establishments,” is to prevent nudity not degrees of nudity and it does not address scantily clad individuals if that person is appropriately dressed and that is always up to the discretion of the investigating police officer. The word “cleavage” is mentioned a number of times in the ordinance, which was written in 1955 and updated 1991 and 1995, but from my reading of it a gal would have to be naked from the knees up to be in violation. And if exposing cleavage was indeed a crime, Hammerhead bartender and bikini model Pashence Marie would be sentenced to life in the electric chair.
Terrorizing Evil Doers: Following my chat with Chief Hurley about the nudity ordinance earlier this week he presented me with one of the Fernandina Police Department’s challenge coins. For those of you that don’t know, a challenge coin is a small coin or medallion, bearing an organization’s insignia or emblem and carried by the organization’s members. They are about the same size as a silver dollar and weigh just a little more. Traditionally, they are given to prove membership when challenged and to enhance morale. In addition, they are also collectables and Chief Hurley has an impressive display in his office from a variety of police and military organizations. However, what makes our local cops’ coins unique is the tag line on one side that says: “Bringing Terror to Evil Doers Since 1887,” a verbatim quote from an 1892 local town newspaper that was writing about the Fernandina police of that day. That side of the coin also features the town’s “eight flags” logo, while the other side features a pirate symbol, and the police department web site www.fbpd.us. This unique coin will be displayed with a U.S. Navy one that was given to me several years ago by a Kings Bay submariner.
Take That You Silly Terrorists: The U.S. military under this anything-goes administration is now considering allowing transgendered folks to join up. It apparently doesn’t matter if you can shoot a gun, drive a tank, fire a mortar, fly a plane, or toss a hand grenade, but how you look in high heels and mesh stockings. I assume the loons in the Obama administration figure ISIS will laugh themselves to death. Times have changed since the film and TV series MASH, when Corporal Klinger pretended to be a gal so he could score a Section 8 and get out, not stay in the army.
This Is Another Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Us Into: Following several strenuous days of jumping up and down chanting “Death to America” the population of Iran had enough energy left to dance in the streets once their mad mullahs announced the results of the nuclear talks with the U.S. It was no contest as Iran took home the trophy in this lopsided event while the American team was never in the game. Its coach John Kerry, looked like a childish and befuddled Stan Laurel during the talks with his head-scratching, silly grin and shrill and squeaky crying “I didn’t mean it Ollie.” Back in Washington D.C., Oliver Hardy, er, Barack Obama, tried to convince the American public that the U.S. won even though Iran still holds all its American prisoners, snagged $150 billion to spread more terror, says certain sites are off limits to inspections, will be able to obtain airplanes and missiles more easily, and will have a bomb within 10 years if not much sooner. These two inept negotiators are the same two who are giving Cuba the trade it craves that will only enrich the Castro brothers as the Cuban economic system is one of indentured servitude, with the government loaning out it citizens for massive profit. How insane is our foreign policy when we’re going to have an embassy in Havana, but refuse to have one in Jerusalem. And it’s also these bungling, clueless, bozos, that swapped five high ranking terrorists for U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. After another 18 months of this hellish nightmare will there be anything left to salvage?
The You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me Department: The Atlanta chapter of the NAACP has officially called for the elimination of all symbols of the Confederacy from the area’s Stone Mountain Park with that NAACP’s local President Richard Rose saying the images of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, that are the world’s largest relief carvings, need to be removed. “Those guys need to go,” he said. “They can be sand-blasted off, or somebody could carefully remove a slab of that and auction it off to the highest bidder,” The carvings, on the side of the world’s largest exposed piece of granite just outside of Atlanta, were started in 1916 and work continued on and off until 1972, when they were finally completed. The NAACP’s demands come on the heels of the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House that has sent the country’s left into a frenzy of monument defacing and protests ever since. Isn’t this exactly what the world condemned the Taliban and ISIS for doing in the Middle East as those homicidal loons run around destroying ancient artifacts reflecting the history of those ancient countries?
A Very Scary Thought: Alan Grayson (D), the loudmouth whacko U.S. representative from Florida’s 9th Congressional District has announced that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio due to the senator’s presidential campaign. The scary part of this is that folks actually voted for this crazed loon that now embarrasses the state from the floor of the U.S. Congress much the same way Jacksonville’s Corrine Brown (D) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) do from their 5th District and 23rd Florida district perches respectively. For example Grayson once sent out a fundraising email comparing the Tea Party to the Klu Klux Klan, called a female Federal reserve adviser a “K Street whore,” and said on the House floor that the Republican plan for healthcare was for people to “die quickly.” At one point his 9th District constituents were so anxious to get rid of this crack pot they created a web site called mycongressmanisnuts.com as a public service to reveal what an insane person he is. Unfortunately there were still enough folks that ignored Grayson’s mental disorder and voted him into office and now he is planning to humiliate our state on a massive scale.
Rock Along With WestRock? Local mill Rock-Tenn is now WestRock, so named after its parent company merged with MeadWestvaco, one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies with some $15 billion in annual revenues and 42,000 employees in 30 countries, a move that should provide job security and comfort to the local mill’s some 400 plus workers. Over the years the mill has been good to its employees and generated loyalty from many I know who wouldn’t have stayed with ’em for 30-40 years if they were treated any other way. The locals celebrated the merger and name change with an onsite cookout for all employees recently, but to me the name still sounds like that of a heavy metal rock band. The company CEO is Steve Voorhees, a guy I’ve never ever seen together with our local boat captain and shop owner Pajama Dave Voorhees. We never saw Superman and Clark Kent or Billy Batson and Captain Marvel together either did we? Hummmmm.
A Nice Place To Visit But: I don’t get all the fuss about Greece threatening to withdraw from the European Union. That socialistic country hasn’t been relevant in 2,500 years with its last big hoorah coming in 480 BC when it whacked an invading Persian army twice the size of its own. Today the once proud Greeks live in a country smaller than Alabama with a population of less than 11 million, just two million more than New York City. So unless you’re a huge consumer of Feta cheese and Ouzo, what’s the big deal?
More Miller Time: I have no idea who created it, but a new Facebook page poking fun at Commissioner Johnny Miller and his self absorption is up and as it says it: “Documents the social media amusement from the bartender ‘vice mayor’ of Selfieland.” The site is chock a block full of Miller selfies holding up his hand with the index finger and pinky extended in what I always thought was the University of Texas “hook ’em horns” sign. The site mocks the commissioner’s never ending pictures of himself in various island locales and even has one of him photo shopped into a shark’s mouth. Just go to Facebook and key in Vice Mayor Johnny Miller Memes. This is funny stuff and I’d like to hear from whoever created it to see if they want to contribute to the next issue of the Amelia Island News-Wrecker.