Possum Hollar

Stories about my family

RANDY THE PREACHER

Phyllis and I believe our middle child, Randy, will have great rewards in Heaven as he and his family have devoted most of their adult life to  Christian service.  More about that later.

Randy was a bright child.  While Rick and Cynthia, who like their parents, had to study and work to get A’s in school.  Randy could inherently grasp a complex concept with apparent ease and very little study.  Particularly in math.

Randy standing in front of our camper at dad’s salvage in Warner, OK

This giftedness was first recognized when Phyllis was teaching Rick math skills using flash cards when he was about five.  Randy two years younger, would interrupt with the correct answer before Rick had an opportunity to respond.

When I retired from the Army in the fall of 1981.  Our family (except Rick who remained in Wichita, KS where he later married Susan, his sweetheart) moved to Tulsa and became active in Bethel Baptist Temple.  It was here where Randy accepted Christ as  his savior and was baptized.

Shortly thereafter, Randy accepted the call to the ministry.  When he graduated Webster High School, Tulsa University offered a scholarship in engineering.  During his first semester it was apparent that his heart wasn’t in this endeavor.

His English Professor assigned students a writing assignment about a topic of the students choice.  Randy decided to write about Jesus and his plan for saving humanity.  However, the professor instructed Randy he would only be allowed to write a satire of the “story” of Jesus .

Randy disregarded her instructions and submitted his paper about the REAL Jesus.   He was chastised and given a poor grade.  Shortly after that, he withdrew, married Donna Cobb and left for Baptist Bible College, Springfield, Mo.

After 2 and 1/2years in Springfield, MO, Randy joined the Navy to attend the Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fl.  After graduating near  the top of his class he was transferred to Balston, Spa, NY to attend the Naval Prototype course.  Aftr two years of schooling, he was assigned to the USS Skipjack SSN 585 fast attack submarine.

As a crew member. Randy served with distinction on the Skipjack until it was decommissioned in 1991.   During this time Randy and Donna had two beautiful daughters, Cynthia and Kimberly.

Randy and his young family remained in Virginia where he found work as a manager trainee for Camelia Food Store, a multi-state grocery store chain.  Within a few months he was assigned Manager of the store and earned the reputation of increasing operational efficiency and profit margins in every Department.  Subsequently, Corporate Headquarters  moved him to grocery stores struggling with theft, inefficiency and profit issues.

In each case he met or exceeded corporate goals.  Again, he was promoted and assigned to an audit team to examine operations across 52 stores and make recommendations.  Randy was advancing quickly to  positions of greater responsibility and seemed to have a bright managerial future with Camelia Foods.

He did know that God was preparing him for a future where the  managerial and leadership skills developed here would enable him to weather the financial and cultural storms that began in 2007 and lasted almost a decade.

Randy felt the call of God and left Camelia Foods to joined  the ministry of Fellowship Baptist Church, Chesapeake, VA where he received his ordination and served as Assistant Pastor for 3 of the 11 years in Chesapeake, VA.

Randy and Donna

During the next 8 years Randy impacted 100’s of lives for Christ while pastoring  two churches.  In fact, the entire family was intimately involved in the ministry.   Donna is an accomplished pianist and singer.  Further, their daughters, Cynthia and Kimberly, are also musicians and singers.  Randy completed his Bachelors of Science during this time.

While Randy was pastor of Decatur Heights Baptist Church in Bladensburg, MD  he suffered a heart attack and underwent surgery.  His doctor advised him to find a less stressful profession.  Accordingly,  Randy began looking for a job where he could use his managerial skills in a less stressful but still in a Christian environment.

He found the perfect fit as Principal of Lanham Christian School, Lanham, MD.  and was hired in 2006. It was the job God had prepared for him, at a   time when Institutions all over the U.S. where experiencing  the  declining economy as well as the cultural upheaval that effected Christian institutions in particular.   In this environment several similar Christian schools in Prince George County were forced to close.

Lanham Christian School is a college prep day school  with  over 200  students enrolled in grades K-4 thru 12 fully approved by Maryland State Department of Eduction’s Board of Accreditation and Certification.   The mission of Lanham is to  shape students to (1) Magnify Christ as they learn and grow, (2) reflect the Character of God’s person and purpose and (3) to Develop Commitment to self-discipline and obedience that promote spiritual and academic growth.

Randy was instrumental in improving day to day operations and returning the school to the mission of providing high quality education to a christain community.  Here are a few of the changes made under Randy’s leadership:

Developing a long range financial plan to insure stability, hiring highly qualified and credentialed teachers, adopting a circulum which achieves high standards and academic continuity from grades one thru twelve, growing year to year student retention to 85%, improving student performance on National Standard Test to the 65th percentile in grades 1-10 and college prep testing in grades 11-12,  developing 20 Honors Level and 3 Advance Placement Courses.  In addition, a 10% increase in enrollment is projected for 2018-19 school year.

Randy is also involved in church leadership and the preaching  ministry and is an Elder at Grace Brethren Church.   He was also promoted to Executive Director of Lanham Christian School, Lanham, MD.

Phyllis and I may be a bit prejudiced but we think our son Randy is the most gifted preacher we’ve ever heard.  It is apparent that God has richly blessed Randy and his family.

 

RICK THE LEADER

I have decided to write a story about each of our three children.  Our oldest is Rick.

Rick learning to walk in Buren, Germany, 1963.

 

My purpose, as with other stories, is to provide an informal record of events and personalities which will be of interest to present and future generations of the Burr family.

Richard Allen Burr has always had an outgoing, gregarious and inclusive personality, even as a child.  One of the earliest examples of the kind of personality he would grow up to have happened when we was about 18 months old.

 

When his mother and I were hugging each other, Rick held up his hands and asked to be picked up.  When we did so, he put his arms around each of our necks and said “we family”.  We were surprised because we didn’t even know he knew what it meant to be in a family.

RICK, RANDY AND CYNTHIA ON A CAMPING
TRIP TO DAVIS LAKE, GA

 

 

 

Not surprisingly,  he was serious minded young child.  Many times he would rather be around adults than children his own age.  He enjoyed adult conversations.  I suppose the fact that he was  the oldest child of our three children, he felt he should be more grown up.

 

Phyllis taught our kids to be kind to others and to be friends especially to  unpopular children.  I think Rick took her advice further than she intended.  Although he was bigger than other boys his age, he was not aggressive.  In fact, when another boy picked on him and pushed him around he would not defend himself.

RANDY SWINGING AT AN IMAGINARY BALL WITH AN IMAGINARY BAT, DISINTERESTED CATCHER IS CYNTHIA,AND THE LEADER, RICK, IS CALLING BALLS AND STRIKES.

When Phyllis learned of this she instructed him to not to be mean but  to defend himself.  The following day after school while walking on a footbridge across a creek on the way home, the same boy (smaller than Rick) started picking on him.  Rick picked him up and took him by the ankles and held him over the side of the bridge and threatened to drop him into the creek if he didn’t leave him alone.  Of course he didn’t drop him, but that took care of that problem.

In many ways Rick was a typical boy.  For example, when riding his bike at a high speed he wrecked and flipped over the handle bars, hit a fire hydrant and broke a front tooth.  He attended summer camp with neighborhood kids.  He accepted Christ as savior at summer camp when we lived in Indianapolis, IN.

One more story about Rick before I talk about his unique attributes.  The year was 1980 and his brother Randy had locked his car with the keys in the ignition.  He called his brother for help.  As they discussed the situation, it was decided that they would break the smallest window and reach in to unlatch the door.  Randy handed the hammer to Rick and said “I can’t do it”.

Of course, Rick was glad to help.  He drew back and took a mighty swing and …missed the window.  Instead he left an unsightly dent in the upper side panel of Randy’s beautiful chick magnet. I think that might have been the last time Randy asked Rick for help in important matters.

Rick In ROTC, Wichita St, KS. with his mother, Phyllis.

Recognizing the importance of education to career development, Rick competed a bachelor and masters degrees in the difficult field of Computer Science as a part time student over a period of several years.  He accomplish this feat while working full time without sacrificing time to be a good parent and  husband.  He is one those individuals who can get by 4-5 hours of sleep a night for extended periods of time.

As I mentioned earlier, Rick has a unique personality.  Much of his professional success can be traced to his uncommon ability to relate to individuals and groups in ways to promote common goals or even the more difficult task–convincing follow workers the value of doing things a new way.

For example, when working for Cargill, a multinational,  privately owned conglomerate,  his boss needed someone to study a particularly difficult and complex IT issue requiring major changes throughout the worldwide organization,  Rick was chosen more than once to head a multi-disciplinary group to study the disparate parts of an upcoming issue and  recommend a unified course of action.

Rick was the right man for the job and was recognized for his innovate thinking and his inclusive  approach to involving the right people in the problem solving process.  He possesses a unique ability to communicate equally well with the IT Technician and the high level manager.   He traveled to counties in Europe and South America to train managers and IT professionals in policies and procedures his team developed.

However, I think Rick’s most endearing attribute is his compassion and willingness to help others.  He has taught Sunday School, helped in youth ministry and other worthy community activities.  He is what I consider a well-rounded person.

It is not an understatement to say Rick is popular among our grandchildren at our family get-to-gethers.  The reason is simple, he’s funny.  He can tell a joke, recite funny lines from movies and talk about other interesting but obscure facts.

Most recently he volunteered to help his elderly in-laws manage their affairs they are no longer able to do so.  He was asked because he is a trusted man of good character.

Phyllis and I are very proud  of Rick and his family.  Anyone who knows Rick would be proud to call him son.  God has blessed us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CYNTHIA THE TEACHER

CYNTHIA WAS IN THE FLAG CORP, WEBSTER HIGH SCHOOL, TULSA OK, 1982

Cynthia is our only daughter.

 

Our two sons frequently accused her parents of showing favoritism to the  youngest of our family.  I must admit, for me there is a bit of truth to their assertion, which I suppose happens more often than not in a family such as ours.

Although I could say much about her early childhood,  I will start this story when we moved to Tulsa in 1981.  Cynthia was 15 that year.

Phyllis and I decided to leave the military life for a variety of reasons.  Our first priority after we settled in Tulsa was to join a local church and be active.  We did both.

Phyllis and I were saved at an early age, however we had not been faithful for many years.  Our oldest child, Rick, had been saved earlier at church camp.  Randy and Cynthia were saved a few weeks after we joined a small Baptist church on the west side of Tulsa.  Praise the Lord for His unlimited Grace.

To leave the military and move to Tulsa was one of the wisest decision that Phyllis and I have made in the soon to be 60 years of marriage.

TAKEN IN CO SPRINGS, MOUNTAIN OF THE GODS

The move was especially good for Cynthia.  She joined the Webster High School Marching Band and enjoyed her high school friends.

I think most people reach a few seminal points in life where decisions they make have unforeseen and far reaching consequences.  For example:  accepting Christ as Lord and savior,  choosing a life-long mate, and for my family, cutting short my military career.

One such moment occurred in the summer of 1982.  Cynthia was teaching a Sunday School class in a small room.  Her class had grown from 5-6 students to 25-30 young girls.  Chairs had to be removed to permit standing room for her growing class.  One of my duties each Sunday morning was to check on each class to see if all teachers were present and if any needed help.

As I peeked in on Cynthia’s class, I was taken aback as I watched the girls mesmerized by the teachers’ story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. I too, was caught up in the story and no one noticed as I stepped inside to listen and learn.  It was clear that the Holy Spirit was at work.

CYNTHIA AND I GRADUATED BBC IN 1988, RANDY ON LEAVE FROM NAVY

 

 

I knew at that moment that she was a teacher with a profound God given talent.  After class I told her so.  At that moment I think she decided to  become a Christian School Teacher.

A few years later our family moved to Springfield, Mo where  Cynthia attended Baptist Bible College and became an outstanding teacher

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the mother/daughter bond that developed into something special.

PHYLLIS AND CYNTHIA, THE INSEPARABLE PAIR

 

During her childhood years the two were almost inseparable.  Even so much so that after dates when she was a teenager, Cynthia would come to our bedroom, sit on the edge of the bed and talk incessantly.  After a bit of listening I would drift off to sleep only to be awakening an hour later by laughter and more talk.

That bond strengthened over the next several years as Cynthia married and had three wonderful children. During this period of time Cynthia continued her teaching profession, obtaining a masters and ultimate a PHD in her chosen field of education dealing with the transition from high school to college with a focus on community colleges. Helping young people succeed in school became her mission in life.

Cynthia’s tenure at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo formed the basic building blocks of her success as a pioneer in the field of student success. Presently she is the Vice President and Executive Director of the Texas Association of Community College’s Success Center.

Mainly, she works with trustees and regents of governing boards, and chancellors and presidents of the 50 Texas community colleges to implement changes in policies and procedures focused on student success.

Cynthia works with Texas State Legislators and Cabinet Level Administrators aimed at improving state and local policies.  She also serves a national leadership role in strategic planning and support for a network of 14 other states promoting the Texas model of success.

Because of her success she is well know by college presidents, wealthy donors, local and national leaders who are interested in success of  community college students.  Cynthia’s work has generated millions of dollars in grants given for the specific purpose of implementing her educational models.

Recently Cynthia gave a seminar in Houston, TX and was the main speaker for a gathering of 450 Presidents, Board Members and other community college leaders.   Her services are sought after because of her reputation for results.

By any measure God has blessed her exceedingly.

 

MY LAST STORY

“Honesty and Respect” was  the first of many stories appearing here starting December, 2016.  Since then I have posted more than 100 stories that have been read over 22,700 times by friends who have visited this site.

I no longer suffer from the malady which led me to begin writing in the first place and will be posting my last three stories in  few days.

Thanks for reading and God bless you and your family.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

No story.  Just pictures.  Taken June 2016 during our year + vacation.  We took many pictures.  I’ve tried not to duplicate pictures that I included in my first story of our visit to Yellowstone National Park.

 

Leaving Back Hills National Park on our way to Yellowstone.

 

45th parallel latitude sign between Mammoth Hot Springs & Gardiner, Montana;

Tunnel Near East Entrance

BAD LANDS

No story.  Just pictures.  Phyllis and I visited the Badlands in June 2016.

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota.  it protects 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie grass in the United States.  Movies such as Dances with Wolves (1990) and Thunderheart (1992) were shot in Badlands National Park.

 

 

 

WISCONSIN

No story.  Just pictures of the Wisconsin Dells.  I’ve tried not to include pictures I used in my first story about our visit to the Wisconsin Dells.  Our year + travels took us from Florida to Montana, New Mexico and a lot of places in between.  We’re  back in Broken Arrow enjoying our retirement.  God has blessed us and continues to do so.

Enjoy the pictures.

Phyllis and our faithful companion Honey, waiting for our motorhome to get last minute things checked out before we head off to Wisconsin.  

 

Getting ready to hook up and go.

We stayed here during our tour of the Wisconsin Dell’s

 

According to Wikipedia, the unique beauty of the Dells is due  to the sandstone rock formations and tributary canyons which were formed by a flood which cut deep gorges in the Dells in a matter of days or weeks as the swift water eroded away the soft sandstone.  This explanation must be true because it coincides with the Biblical record.

Pictures of the Badlands next.

MY LAST COMBAT ASSIGNMENT

MY LAST COMBAT ASSIGNMENT

I found a document in my personal files describing a combat assault conducted in the Central Highlands, South Vietnam in 1969.  I thought it might be interesting to my readers.

I’m in the middle, Artillery FO on left and I don’t remember the Major on t he right.  Picture taken in fall of 1969 at LZ Oasis.

 

As I recall, the area of operation was in the vicinity of LZ Oasis, Plieku, South Vietnam.  I was assigned to the  1/35,  Infantry Battalion as the operations officer responsible for planning and executing the combat assault and subsequent operations.

 

AFTER ACTION REPORT:

OASIS — In the largest combat assault of the year, the Famous Fighting Fourth’s 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry flew 500 men and support equipment 12 miles south of The Oasis for an operation that has led to the discovery of enemy caches and huts.

Four companies and a command element were lifted by 15 Hueys.  Five Chinooks from the fixed-wing air field at the Oasis were used to transport heavy equipment.

Companies were picked up from various locations and inserted in designated areas and assigned an area of operation to search for enemy caches as they worked their way back to LZ Oasis.   The command element was situated at Plei Mei.  The airlift was completed within an hour.

During the first day of operations Bravo Company found and destroyed two well camouflaged huts, each capable of sleeping nine men. “The only consistently effective method of finding well hidden hootches,” stated 1st Lieutenant John Kelly, the 3rd Platoon leader, “is to search the thickest vegetation and keep away from used trails.”

On the second day of the operation, Bravo Company found two rice caches. Over 6,700 pounds of rice were in holes that had been concealed by two feet of overhead camouflage.

During the entire operation, companies reported a large number of the enemy’s anti-personnel devices (booby traps) which had decayed or were no longer functioning. One such booby trap consisted of a whip like piece of bamboo which, when functioning, projected an arrow along a well worn path.

In order to find hidden enemy supplies, the fighting Gypsies probed swamps with bamboo poles and searched stream banks for tunnels and caves.

Once the operation was complete, the enemy was minus a food source and supplies.  More importantly, we were certain the enemy was no longer using the area from which to launch attacks on LZ Oasis.

This is the last story I intend to write about my time in Vietnam.

A Letter From Pace Caldwell

This story is addressed to every Veteran that reads my posts.  It is meant to encourage you as it did me when I read it.  First I want to give a little background on Pace Caldwell, a brave soldier.

Jack, Pace and Dot. Phyllis is taking picture.

This morning I received the following letter from Pace Caldwell.  Phyllis and I met Pace and his wife Dot for the first time in January of last year.  Pace was seriously wounded on January 20, 1967 in a battle with NVA units who outnumbered our small patrol on a surveillance mission, Central Highlands, South Vietnam.  He recovered from his wounds and had been trying to find me for several years.

Fifty years later, we met and on the 20th of January, 2017 exactly 50 years later we traced the names of our comrades who were killed that day and whose names were recorded on the Traveling Vietnam Wall located at Ft Benning, Ga.

I hope Pace’s letter encourages you to be persistent and expect the level of service you deserve from the Veterans Administration.

 

“Hello My Brother, I was discharged from the Army in Oct. 1973 and processed trough the VA and received disability for 4 gun shots and a frag. wound. I Visited the VA in Jacksonville when I got back to Jacksonville and registered for health care but never received a call. I just forgot about it, and went to work for I had a family to care for. I had trouble through the years with infections of wound and disorders from Agent Orange, prostrate cancer in 1999 but I had Health Insurance and didn’t think about the VA. A couple years later someone ask if I had been to the VA and filed a Agent Orange claim I had not, spent the last 28 years devoted to my family and work. In 2001 I visited the VA clinic and the people there bent over backward to assist me, the staff and Doctors assured me that they were not giving me anything that I and all the veterans have earned, pay in full for the care. within the next month I was checked from head to toe and My Primary Care Doctor, Schenker whom I seen every 4 months took care of me until he retired in 2015. We have walk in service every day from 7 to 11 am for non emergency treatment.

My VA experience sense 2001 has been great I’ve never had a bad experience along the way. I’m registered on Myhealthevet where I can access my health records make appointments, view health records, lab results and order all my meds from pharmacy. Also have access to Secure Massaging I can ask my doctors at any clinic questing and obtain information. They always follow up by sending me an email to check my Messaging.
I always thanks the staff and Doctors and let them know I apricate the care they give me. I think that everyone should do that if there getting good health care.
I even do that for My Doctors outside the VA.”

P.S.  You can read two stories about the small reconnaissance unit that fought the NVA that day.  First click on the margin and use the search box at the top right of this page and enter “Jan 20”.

COMPANY COMMANDER ON CALL: RECOLLECTIONS OF JACK BURR

PREFACE:  After this story, I have one more story to post about this time in my life, which I will post next week.  

 COMPANY COMMANDER ON CALL

On the 3rd of May, 1967, C Company CO, Captain Joseph Caudillo was killed by a sniper bullet fired by VC hiding behind a haystack.  AT 2311 hours the Battalion Commander was notified that Captain Caudillo passed away atQui Nhon Hospital.

Captain Caudillo was a respected leader, well liked by his contemporaries and especially by the men in Company C.  Therefore, morale would likely be an issue.

Jack Burr South Vietnam 1967, LTC Moore on left

I was told to take command until a replacement could be found..  LTC Moore directed that I implement a training program for the company until a new commander could be located.

 

We both knew that inactivity would be the worse thing for morale.

As I remember,  the new commander took command a few days later and I returned to my job as S-2.

Next, A Company Commander left on a two week leave to tend to an emergency back home.  Again, LTC Moore directed that I take over the company for the two week period.  Any thought that the Battalion Commander would take it easy on the company was fool hardy.

That was alright with me since I knew many of the soldiers in A Company because I was 3rd Platoon Leader for about 7 months.  I had learned that the best way to minimize casualties was insisting on alertness and good security.  Two weeks ended with only a few enemy sightings and frequent use of indirect fires.

When the commander returned,  I went back to my full time  job of S-2 for the remainder of my first tour.  I spent much of my time in the Battalion’s Light Observation Helicopter gathering intelligence about the enemy and passing it directly to friendly forces on the ground.

NOTE:  I returned to Vietnam a year later and was assigned to the same Battalion, in the same AO and commanded B Company.  This time I was with with B Company for several months.

 

 

 

 

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