Possum Hollar

Stories about my family

Finding Sergeant Pickle

The family is the most important institutions of God’s designed for mankind.   It is the place where a person’s identity and self worth are developed.   It is the place where  values such as kindness and honesty are learned and character is formed and nurtured.

The family is the place where Ideas and  personal beliefs about what is important and what is not and what is right and what is wrong are learned and practiced.   It is a place where we love and are loved, a place  where kindness is given and accepted.  It is  the family that gives each of us all this and more, a tradition.   A tradition  worthy of extending to the next generation.

Traditions are events that provide a sense of identity and help tell the story of your family.  Recreating the same experience, whether it’s once a week or around specific events like birthdays or holidays, builds shared memories.

Family stories  reinforces values such as faith, honesty, a good education,  responsibility, a strong work ethic or other values as the story line dictates..    Which is the  purpose in writing and sharing stories about my family.

The following story is one of many that will be in a book to be published for my family.  This is a unlikely story to be told.  God’s providence was at work.  Click on “PICKLE” below and read and enjoy.

 

PICKLE copy 3

ASST BDE OPERATONS OFFICER, 3RD BDE, 25TH INF DIV

It was not unusual for an infantry officer to receive orders a second or even a third time. But it was a bit uncommon to be sent to the same division, same brigade, and ultimately the same battalion. It had been a year since I had been back to the 1/35th Infantry Regiment.

After in processing at 3rd Brigade Headquarters in early January, 1969, the Personnel Officer assigned me to Brigade Operations. I was disappointed. To be an Infantry Company Commander was my desire. Vacancies were few and were coveted by many captains in the division. In the meantime, I would become the best Assistant S-3 I could be.

As I analyzed after action report after action report for lessons learned, one thing became apparent. Many times inadequate security measures resulted in placing individual soldiers and units in jeopardy. Sometimes causalities were the result. Perhaps, from my cushy job sitting behind a desk, I was being too critical. But I think not. To my discredit I did not make friends and had much time on my hands.

I had always been somewhat of a loner. Depression is a strange phenomenon. I would never admit its influence on me. But it was there. I slept in a nice bed. I ate well prepared and tasty food. But in quite times, my mind would drift to family. My wife Phyllis, was a strong and a lovely person, but I knew I had left her a heavy burden to make a home by herself, manage finances, care for three children and make decisions by herself. (She never told me that she also struggled with depression,) as I had until years later. She explained she didn’t want to worry me.

But intuitively, I knew, and so in the darkest hours of the night silent tears would leak from my eyes. I was embarrassed and faulted myself for my own weakness. I asked for double duty to counter my loneliness and worked even harder to erase my shortcomings.

When the company assignment came, I was ready. I took command in March, but I was a changed person. For one thing, I became more careful when it came to matters of security and protection of my men. Security for units operating in the Central Highlands took many forms from always operating within range of supporting fires to spacing between soldiers. To close with and kill the enemy was fundamental to our mission, but not at the expense of adequate security.

Near the end of my tour a situation developed which tested my commitment to this tactical concept. (see Personal Integrity). Finally, the time spent at Brigade helped me better understand myself. More importantly, it helped me become a better commander.

WORKING TOGETHER

WORKING TOGETHER 

Dad and mom bought a farm by the coal pits southeast of Warner, OK in 1948. They had high hopes of growing corn, cotton and other cash crops. But high hopes and hard work did not provide enough money to keep the farm going. 

The early 50’s were hard on small farmers as it was with most families in rural Oklahoma. It seemed to me that my folks were just hanging on, hoping that things would turn around next year. But it didn’t. 

Consequently, the family migrated to California and other places to work the crops. The money earned would then be used to buy seed, fertilizer, etc. for another year at the farm. So come harvest time dad would pack our tent and we would follow the other migrant workers. 

Several seasons we went to Stratford, California to follow the cotton and grape crops. Many times dad set goals for us to meet and when we met that goal we would be through for the day. He usually set the goal at 2000 lbs. when we picked cotton. We started early in the day when the cotton was heavy with dew. 

He would announce the goal early in the day, most times about 6 AM. Usually by 2 PM we were over 2000 lbs and could call it a day. At $4.00 per 100 bs. $80.00 a day was a good family wage in 1951. 

I believe it was 1952 when John Clark, a family friend, moved from Webber Falls to a small town in western Montana. He called dad for help. Acres and acres of golden wheat were ready for harvest when we arrived. Dad operated a combine that I pulled with a caterpillar and my brother drove a large tractor pulling another combine.

We worked for thirty days straight and went back home. Dad was paid $900. and Leo and I were paid $600. each. Dad took John Clark’s check to the bank and was paid partially in silver dollars which we had to spend. In those days the government frowned on hoarding silver. 

The money was enough to buy school clothes and shoes for us kids with enough left over to buy seed and fertilizer for next years crop, and a little left over for the mortgage. Money earned belonged to the family. 

Dad was a man of dreams, a man of convictions, a man of hope, ambition and a family man. But most of all a Godly man.  

MY MOTHER

My mother was more introverted and perhaps more intelligent than any of us. She had a mind that recalled events and transactions from the past with accuracy. Addie Burr was also an artist. 

Her artful use of the English language was evidenced by the poems she left behind. This poem was written while traveling from Warner, Oklahoma along route 66 on our way to Stratford, California. This story happened in the early 1950’s. Her writings emphasize her love of God and country. 

GODS PRAYER STATION
While traveling one day down life’s busy avenue
with no thought of destination,
where I was headed to.
I caught the glimpse of a billboard that stood beside the road the boards were weather worn,
the paint was faded and old.
Some of the words were missing from the sign
but the two words I did read.
keep going through my mind.
Find happiness it read,
I kept driving, and thinking, what is happiness?
where is happiness? does happiness really exist?
Is it on the other side of the world in some foreign land?
Or right here in America,
In the heart of every man who sincerely desires to find it?
I traveled on farther thinking and looking at the barren so then another billboard (prepare) I didn’t quite comprehend, so then I read on, (to meet thy God).
Then another billboard just up the road
(God’s Prayer Station)
the doors are never closed.
True it was no big cathedral with stained glass windows
and not an inch of carpet was laid
but just a simple little place
where another traveler prayed. 

Written by Addie Burr 

For mom. it was the notion that America is a place where there is freedom to worship God, which is the path to true happiness. What better way to express ones’ patriotism than to demonstrate a love of God and country. 

 

MY FIRST COMMAND,

I took command in February, 1969. For several months B Company, 1/35th Infantry Battalion was involved in a number of small skirmishes. We had a few minor casualties.

Jack Burr

I had several encounters during my first tour with an enemy that had been trained in North Vietnam conventional tactics and usually fought battles with forces large enough to stand and fight. When they massed forces we used over powering air and indirect weapons to inflict significant casualties.

The enemy we confronted this time employed smaller units to strike and run. By using alert security teams permitted B company to anticipate where and when the enemy was likely to strike and take aggressive action to counter his plans and take the fight to him. Sometimes it was difficult for soldiers to maintain a high level of alertness when no evidence of enemy activity for days on end.

In fact, in those cases where we suffered casualties, the enemy had capitalized on lax security. But sometimes we suffer from our own mistakes. Such was the case on this day.

It was Saturday, June the 21st, 1969 when I called a halt to our search mission.  We had been on the go for several days and needed a few days rest. We found an area suitable for security and could be easily defended.  Of course, the area was near a stream where men could bathe, fish or just relax.

Platoon Sgt, SFC Freitas and I were sitting in the shade and talking about something that I cannot remember.  As infantrymen do, our talk turned to our profession.  We were sitting near the command post and overheard the battalion operations announce pre-planned artillery fire in an area about 4 kilometers from our location. 

SFC Freitas asked if they needed a forward observer for the planned fires.  The company RTO passed the question to Battalion Operations and the reply was affirmative.  I decided to go with him. I told my friend and RTO, Sgt Dill to inform the platoon leaders what we were going to do.

We found an elevated area about 600 meters west of our base and SFC Freitas made contact with the firing battery and started his fire commands.  With our binoculars, we could clearly see what the Sergeant was doing as he walked the fires along a ridge line and into a ravine.

Suddenly, a radio voice barked “SHORT ROUND, SHORT ROUND”.  We didn’t have time to react.  A loud explosion shook the ground as I could hear shrapnel whizzing all around.  SFC Freitas was hit by a large piece that took off his right arm at the shoulder.

I was kneeling no more than three feet to his right but was unharmed. I tried to stop the bleeding as I tended to SFC Freitas. I believe he was immediately knocked unconscious.  I called for help and continued my efforts to stop the bleeding to no avail. 

I cried and cried as I tried to stop the bleeding. But I could not.  I lost a friend.  After 50 years I am now able to reconcile his loss. (see preface to the “First Battle”, for comments about my reconciliation struggle.) 

NOTE:  A short round occurs when an artillery projectile does not have sufficient charge to reach the intended target and falls short.

Note: I was contacted by the niece of SFC Freitas a few weeks ago thanking me for writing this story. She had found the story I had posted over two years ago on the 1/35 Infantry Regiment website and contacted the website manager who forwarded her inquiry. I responded by telling her what I could remember about her uncle.

She was one of several relatives that I have had discussions with about a loved one lost in the Vietnam war. This is the most important reasons I maintain this site although I no longer write.

In fact, the Lord has impressed upon my heart to provide comfort to as many as I am able to find, or who find me. God has blessed me and I aim to bless others as I am able.

The decorations earned by SFC Robert Edwin Freitas include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star with V, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.

READER COMMENTS

The religious stories received several comments from loyal readers.. Here are a few.

Don Qualls left this comment after reading the story about Alfred and Addie Burr leading the community in building a Church in Warner, OK in 1954.

It must be in the Burr blood, my mother, Juaneva (Pip) Burr Qualls was the main force in starting a Southern Baptist Church in Stratford CA. around 1962*63-ish. My brother Jerry Qualls could probably give the exact date, he attended the church until he moved to Webber around 1974. I remember spending many days getting the storefront ready, cutting weeds in the back, going to Sunday School. After my mothers death in 1965 we began to attend the Pentecostal church of God that Janis mentioned earlier

Uncle Tom Burr left this comment. What a GREAT story. I am glad and honored to call Alfred Burr my earthly and Heavenly brother.

Janis Burr Minter left this comment after reading the same story. Very interesting. I didn’t know about the building of the church. My dad helped build the Pentecostal church in Stratford. But he didn’t attend until much later in his life.

Judy Anderson. For your memory bank of Bro & Sister Burr, (Alfred Burr’s parents). When my brother-in-law, Burl Page pastored the little brown church on the corner behind the cotton gin, (In the town of Webbers Falls, OK), Bro Burr was the assistant pastor and when Burl had to work, he preached. He was the first person I ever heard speak in tongues! I wanted to do that, didn’t understand it, but wanted it. I loved to hear both of them testify. Sister Burr always sat on the front bench of the left side of the church. I still remember the long dark colored coat with a pretty pin on the lapel that she wore. And she always prayed during the service. She like the song “I shall not be moved”. We had a wood stove in the middle of the isle in center of the church and Bro Burr would carry the wood in by arm loads and many times came early to build the fire so church would be warm. Hope this gives you a short memory to reflect on two favorite people of my childhood.

Note: Brother and Sister Burr referred to by Judy are my grandparents. Thank you Judy, I did not know. Jack

Tim Denning left this comment after reading the story “The Day I was Saved.” Thank you for sharing – I always love to hear how someone came to know our Lord.
I came to Christ the Summer of 1974 at a meeting downtown in Wichita. I too felt that God through the preacher was speaking directly to me that night. It was hard to go forward in that big crowd but I knew that is what I had to do. I’ve never been the same since and would not trade his loving care for anything. Yes, I too have not walked as I should at times but he is always ready to draw me close.

Comment left by my sister Brenda. testimony from the heart… love all bc

Comment by Dennis Burr. Fantastic testimony. (Dennis is a man who loves family traditions as much as I do, Jack).

Comment by my daughter-in-law, Donna. Amen Amen Dad!!

Thanks for the feedback. Jack

THINGS SAID FROM THE PULPIT

 

     Finding my old Bible, which I had misplaced some time ago, brought back memories about things said and the people who said them.  I made notations in the margins about things that cross my mind.  I’ve also included some funny lines as well. 

Pastor in Missouri:  A Boloney stick sliced into many pieces, doesn’t matter which slice you get, it’s still boloney.  Life is not a parking lot, it’s a highway.  A preacher should not use much runway to get off the ground.     

     Teacher in Springfield, MO:  The BIBLE contains 66 Chapters, 1,189 chapters and 81,113 words.  The authors were inspired and every word recorded is true and without error.  We can depend on on its truthfulness in all matters, especially His purpose as expressed in John 3:16.     

     My favorite verse:  Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby ye are sealed until the day of redemption.  Eph 4:30.

     Gary Muse saved 02/12/1989

     A Pastor of a Hispanic church in Rio Grand Valley, Texas, 1997 spoke on the Garden Of Success.  (part of sermon was in Spanish and part in English.  Here is the part I understood.

Plant 5 rows of Lettuce:  lettuce be faithful, lettuce us be loyal, lettuce be truthful, lettuce be unselfish, lettuce us love each other

Plant 3 rows of squash.  squash gossip, squash criticism, squash indifference.

Plant 4 rows of peas:  politeness, prayer, promptness, perserverance,  

Plant ? rows of turnips:  turnip with a smile…… ??  Great sermon, many went forward.  

     A Sunday School Teacher :  How many agnotics does it take to change a light bulb?  I don’t know until  I see for myself. 

     How many atheists?  Atheists leave the light bulb burnt out as they prefer to dwell in the darkness.

     How many Presbyterians?  None.  Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

     How many Baptists?  At least 15.  One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

     How many Amish?  What’s a light bulb?

     Pastor stepped to the mike and said, “Can you hear me in the back?  reply:  yes, but I wouldn’t mind changing seats with someone who can’t.”

     Teaching a lesson on importance of  bring patient with your spouse, a Sunday School teacher used the following quip to make a point:  “Patience is a virtue… catch it if you can…seldom found in women….(long pause)…. .  At the pause the women gasped and the men chuckled. Then the tables were turned when the teacher finished the quip…. “never found in men”.

THINGS YOU NEVER HEAR IN CHURCH

  • Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!
  • I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went over time 25 minutes.
  • I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class.
  • Forget the denominational minimum salary: let’s pay our pastor so he can live like we do.
  • I love it when we sing hymns I’ve never heard before!

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.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

No story.  Just pictures of our visit to Yellowstone National Park..  Taken June 2016 during our year + vacation.   

one of the many waterfalls in Yellowstone Park

THE DEVIL’S BREATH MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS


We sat on a log and waited about an hour for Old Faithful to burp.


picture take from the car

Beautiful day, Beautiful country


HE WOULDN’T GET OFF THE ROAD

YellowStone Lake

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

Tunnel Near East Entrance

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