A Thoughtfully Written Memorial Day Reflection


Yesterday evening proved to be enjoyable. A neighbor stopped by and said he had something for me. I responded immediately that if it were a dog or a snake, I would respectfully decline.  I guess you could say: “I was grasping at straws”. What could he possibly have for me?  For one thing, to suggest that he’d consider giving me a dog is ludicrous.  I’m not even sure why I threw that out there as a thought.  The neighbor isn’t a dog person either.  However, you’d be surprised at the number of people who have expressed their view that the General and I need another dog.  For the record: “We don’t!”  The Barnabas years were all we needed to recognize the special place a pet can occupy in a person’s heart.


Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the neighbor is a snake person.  I think he has the prudent judgment to know that I am not a friend of creepy crawlers. After all, he is my go-to-guy to handle any of the snake related episodes that surface on my place.  Of course, I have to reach out to him immediately following my awareness of a problem in the hopes that I can reach him before my automatic default to “fetal position” sets in a locked position. 


When I don’t get to him quickly enough, the option to use my over-and-under 12-gage shotgun seems like the only alternative. That makes the General a little nervous, especially when I am shooting toward the house.


Since my neighbor has a menagerie of lizards and snakes in the upstairs space of his home, he intuitively knows I’m not the “go-to-guy” if he needs someone to care for them while he is away. I’ve been asked to check their mail, but never once has he asked to feed crickets or mice to their snakes.


Like I’ve said before: “The guy is really smart”. Besides that, even though I haven’t read the book: “How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty”, I would automatically respond with a: “NOT NO BUTabsolutely not” kind of response.  The very thought is way outside my comfort zone.


In order to stop my guessing game of what he had for me, my neighbor quickly said that he had been asked by a mutual friend to give me a hug.  I’ve actually never met our mutual friend. For that matter, I’m not sure he has either. Thanks to technology, a lot of people can come into our lives and legitimately hold a place card as friend even though we’ve never actually laid eyes on them. I’d be hard pressed to pick out any number of people that I’ve come to treasure as a friend in a police lineup. The friend thoughtfully believed a hug would be needed on Memorial Day.  She, too, is smart. The hug was well received. 


For the past couple of days, I’ve been mulling over a poignant and thoughtfully written Memorial Day reflection written by Mike Bliss. Mike Bliss served in the United States Marine Corp at the same time as my brother. They both were stationed at Nam Phong, Thailand.  His posting was entitled: “Memorial Day – My thoughts in 2017.”  It was posted on May 26, 2017. 


Mike had me hooked on reading his article before I completed reading his first paragraph.  He wrote: “ Memorial Day – The word memorial… it must be related to the word memory. Some wordsmith could tell you all about the root word from which memorial and memory are derived. Not me. I just know that they are related and that’s good enough. Memories are about remembering. Memorial is about celebrating or honoring the memories. I’ve lived 65 years, so as you can imagine I have many, many memories”.


To highlight a point, he added: “Pick a name, any name of someone gone from this world…I chose Ronald Wayne Forrester. I didn’t choose his name because I was particularly close to him, but rather so I can better relate or explain or demonstrate my understanding of what Memorial Day means… At that time, Ron Forrester was an officer in the Marines, a 1st LT, and I was an enlisted Marine, a Lance Corporal. Lance Corporals and Lieutenants didn’t socialize or hang around together. We had a working relationship… I got to know Lt. Forrester as a very respectful, soft-spoken gentleman. I respected him. We never discussed personal lives, though, because of the nature of our duties and our ranks. It was always strictly business. I have learned more about his personal life in the years since”.


Late yesterday, the friend who stopped by to provide me the hug and I went for a ride. We hadn’t gone far before he asked: “Do you know Phil?” I didn’t know Phil.  My neighbor then asked for me to stop so he could introduce us.  I actually hadn’t seen him. Phil and his wife were across the fence on the other side of the road taking care of their herd of Longhorn cattle.  Phil proved to be very conversational.


Actually, from the time we walked up it was non-stop conversation between my neighbor and Phil. Both had served in the United States Air Force. Phil was obviously older based on some of the information he shared. However, he actually looked a lot younger than either of us.


Phil made reference to models of airplanes used by the Air Force from 1964 going forward.  Wow! That was before I graduated from high school. For the next forty-five minutes my neighbor and Phil talked about planes, their capacity and their performance track record.  One of the planes Phil mentioned was sadly referred to as “The Widow Maker.” It was in production and used heavily by the U.S. during the Vietnam Conflict. That was during the period of time that Phil served.


Phil shared several personal stories of being present and seeing a number of crash landings that resulted in the death of the pilot.  Landing a plane upside down isn’t particularly known for its survival rate. Ejecting out of an aircraft when it is upside down and near the ground also didn’t work well.  Phil had sadly seen the loss of many lives.


I had the thought as Phil talked that Memorial Day had to have a special meaning for him. After all, how many people do you see die in the worst possible of ways before the imprint is permanent and over-riding?


During the ensuing conversation, Phil mentioned a pilot with whom he flew that had made an impressionable positive difference for him. He said something closely akin to: “For years now, I’ve thought I’d like to locate him to thank him for his kindness”.


He shared the story of being the guy in the back seat and the pilot asking if he’d like to take the stick and fly the plane. The memory of that experience and the patience of the pilot when in short order they were flying about five thousand feet higher than the group of other planes they had been flying with in formation became evident to him.  Of course, the pilot was fully aware that they were no longer in formation. The man sharing his story said: “I was so busy focusing on keeping the ride smooth that I didn’t recognize we were climbing in altitude.


The pilot said: “We’re okay. Let me take the stick back and I’ll show you how the interceptor feature of this plane works. With that said, they were soon flying upside down in a backward loop as the pilot came up from behind and rejoined the other planes in formation. The man said, “It was an unbelievable ride. The G-factor was way out there.”


In reflecting back to that time in his life, Phil said: “Most of those guys (pilots) were arrogant and proud. They wouldn’t have even acknowledged my presence.  The guy I flew with was different.  He made me feel valued as a person.  He earned my respect. We weren’t friends and we didn’t hang out together.  It wasn’t permissible for officers and enlisted men to have that kind of relationship.  But he treated me with kindness. I’d really like to look him up to say: ‘Thank you’.”


Hearing that, I thought immediately of Mike Bliss’ words concerning my brother: “I got to know Lt. Forrester as a very respectful, soft-spoken gentleman. I respected him.”


Mike Bliss’ article related to Memorial Day gave me much to contemplate.  His reference: Memorial Day – Memories – The recollection that Ronald Forrester was a very respectful, soft-spoke gentleman” with the added notation “I respected him.” was a gift that Mike unknowingly provided Ron’s family.


All My Best!

Apple Computer, Inc.




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