Possum Hollar

Stories about my family

ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER

In 1989 Phyllis and I learned of the acute need for foster parents in our community.  Such a shame that so many innocent children are in need of parental love and supervision.  Because of Phyllis’ deep and abiding love for children, we decided to become foster parents.

Christa was a beautiful nine month old child.

Before we could become foster parents, Phyllis and I had to attend training sessions.  Because our foster child had sleep apnea and required a night time monitor, we were required to learn how to use the monitor to detect chest movement and heart rate.  Our daughter was living at home while attending Baptist Bible College also attended the sessions.

Christa came to us from dysfunctional family.  Her biological father was involved with drugs and was not around.  The mother, Mary, was having difficulty coping with all the responsibilities of parenthood.  As a result, Christa was removed from the home.

CHRISTA WAS A JOY TO BE AROUND AND  FIT RIGHT IN WITH OUR FAMILY

 

 

 

 

The first night we had Christa, we nervously hooked up the leads on her little body, fussed over her a bit and set the machine to alarm if something went wrong.  After everyone was asleep a loud  alarm caused the three of us to rush to Christa’s bedroom.

When the light was switched on we saw Christa sitting up in her crib with a monitor clip in her hand and a grin on her face.  Perhaps it was a triumphant smile.

After we determined that every thing was OK, we laughed with her.  Christa had a  wonderful personality.

Always smiling and eager to please others.

Ultimately, all of us wanted Christa to return to her biological mother.  But fist the home environment needed to improve.

The social worker admired Phyllis’s work as a foster mother and asked her if she would help Mary.  Of course, Phyllis agreed.

Mary loved Christa and wanted her back.  However, she saw the need for placing her child in a foster home in the first place.   In fact, she taught Christa to call us “Mama Phyllis and Daddy Jack” and was willing to share her daughter.

Mary was a willing learner.  She learned home making and child rearing skills over the next several weeks.  During the process, Mary became a good friend and a better parent.

When it was time, the social worker told us that Christa should be returned to Mary.  Mary invited us to visit Christa whenever we wished.

Mary was gracious with her daughter.  She let Christa stay with us on weekends and once we took her on vacation to Colorado.  Another time she visited us when we lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma several years later.

Still as a teenager, Christa continued to call us “Momma Phyllis and Daddy Jack”.   She grew up to be a responsible adult.  Christa is a wonderful person and loving parent.

A second foster child is another story.

 

VICARIOUS VACATION

I sit here enjoying the scenery as I look through the hundreds of picture taken during our travels from Flordia,  to Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and back to Oklahoma.  Phyllis and I have a wonderful time reminiscing as we take the trip again and again from the warmth of our home on a cold wintery day.

Join us in looking at pictures of beautiful venues and breathtaking views of God’s handiwork found in nature.  It’s like taking an early vacation vicariously.  (Pictures taken in 2016.)

Next five pictures are of scenery in the Grand Teton National Park

 

 

 

SNAKE RIVER IN THE MIDDLEGROUND AND TETON MOUNTAINS IN BACKGROUND

PHYLLIS AND I STANDING ON A LOOKOUT IN YELLOWSTONE PARK

BUFFALO GRAZING IN YELLOWSTONE PARK

YELLOWSTONE LAKE IS 20 MILES LONG, 14 MILES WIDE.   IT’S FROZEN FROM LATE DECEMBER AND THAWS IN LATE MAY OR EARLY JUNE.

SCENIC OVERLOOK BETWEEN SOUTH FORK  AND POGASO SPRINGS, COLORADO

VIEW OF TETON MOUNTAINS, TRAIL LEADS TO AN OLD CABIN OFF THE MAIN ROAD

PHYLLIS AND I IN THE BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, SD, JUNE, 2016, DURING OUR YEAR LONG VACATION LIVING IN OUR CAMPER.

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE BADLANDS

TREES GROW IN THE SANDSTONE FORMATIONS.  THE DELLS, WI

CLOUD CLIMBING RAILROAD NEAR CLOUDCROFT, NM. LAST USED 1948

CLOUDCROFT RAIL ROAD WAS ONLY MEANS OF TRAVEL TO CLOUDCROFT, NM EXCEPT BY MULE PACK UNTIL RAILROAD BUILT IN EARLY 1900’S

Fishing for trout in the Guadelope River flowing out of Canyon Lake 30 miles North of San Antonio, TX.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

 

DERELICTION OF DUTY: Willfully refusing a lawful order

It was the fall of 1968 and I had been a Basic Training Company Commander at Fort Bliss, TX for about nine months when the Brigade Commander asked me to take a problem Lieutenant from another company and try to turn him around.  I was confident I could rehabilitate the wayward officer.

When Lt Billings (not his real name) reported for duty I noticed his uniform was not pressed  and  his military bearing was poor.  It was obvious he had a bad attitude.  I discussed the matter with him and asked if he know why he had been assigned to my company.  He said yes and added he didn’t like the Army.

I responded that he didn’t have to like the Army but he did have to obey orders.  Additionally, I told him I expected his attitude to change.  I informed him that he was getting a second chance to do what was right.

I gave him a pep talk and told him he was capable of becoming a successful commissioned officer and my job was to help him do so.  I gave him the rest of the day to get a hair cut and get his uniform cleaned and pressed and, to report for duty the next day at 5 AM.

For the next 3 or 4 days the LT Billings followed my directions as I detailed each morning.  Seeing progress, I began to think he might turn around and I told him so.  But I was soon disappointed.

He lived off post but was not married and on the 5th day he was an hour late.  He said he had a flat tire.  He knew that he should have called me before 5 AM and reported his situation but he did not.  This was his first and last warning.  Any further infraction would result in revoking his off-post privilege.

A week later I restricted him to the barracks because he did not follow orders.  His attitude and manner of performance had worsened.  I documented the Lieutenant’s attitude and behavior with details of each infraction.  Of course, I kept the Brigade Commander informed.

It was my experience that in far too many instances “problem” soldiers were simply assigned to the next unit.  Passing the problem soldiers on and on until something bad happened.  I was determined to not let that happen.

After another week of such behavior, I decided to recommend that Lt Billings be discharged for dereliction of duty and failure to obey lawful orders. To do less would be a disservice to the  other officers and enlisted men in my unit who performed their assigned duties everyday.

When I informed LT Billings, he did not act surprised and did not object even when I told him that he would not receive an Honorable Discharge.  I told the Lieutenant I was sad that he had not taken advantage of the chance I had given him to do the right thing.

The Brigade Commander approved my recommendation and the Lieutenant was given a Less Than Honorably Discharge.  I was sad but I had 140 good men that needed my attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN GOOD LEADERS MAKE MISTAKES

I recently published a story about several outstanding NCO’s that I inherited when I took over a Basic Training Company, Ft Bliss TX.  However; sometimes good and otherwise competent leaders make mistakes and must be held accountable.  Such was the case with SGT Ridgeway, a junior Drill Sergeant.

It was a hot Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1968 when I got a call from the Company Orderly.  He reported several trainees had complained of blisters in the palm of their hands and a few of them had called their parents about the matter.  I put on my uniform and went to Company Headquarters to find out what was going on.

Sergeant Ridgeway was in the orderly room and asked to see me to explain what happened. We went into my office. He reported that the platoon had failed an inspection and he gave them additional physical training as punishment. He placed the entire platoon in the front leaning rest position and required them to remain in that position on the hot pavement for about 20 minutes.

As a result 8 trainees developed blisters on their palms. I asked him if that was poor judgement on his part. He answered yes. I brought the sergeant to the position of attention and administred an article 15.  Of, course SGT Ridgeway could have refused the punishment but he did not. For good reason, he was guilty of poor judgement which resulted in harm to soldiders under his command.

Because I was the Commander, I had the authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to give an Article 15 to any soldier in my command if I deemed the infraction required such action.  Article 15 is a non-judicial punishment for minor infractions and do not become a permanent part of the soldiers record.

SGT Ridgeway was a competent NCO with good reports, I gave him the the least punitive level of punishment under Article 5, an oral reprimand.  I informed him that my written record of this punishment would be destroyed at end of this Training Cycle (approximately 5 weeks) conditional on his conduct for that time period.

I didn’t tell Sgt Ridgeway, but I had another reason for giving him the minimum level of punishment  soon after the infraction.  Before I spoke to Ridgeway the orderly had every injured trainee checked at the infirmary and determined the injuries were supeficial and would have no lasting effect with proper medication and care.

Most importantly, SGT Ridgeway was the caliber of NCO I needed and the Army needed.  I didn’t want commanders up the chain to usurp my prerogative and give a harsher punishment.  Now they couldn’t because that would be double jeopardy.

My predection was correct. The Brigade Commander wanted to take action himself.  I stood my ground because I knew I was right. I explained that Sgt Ridgeway was an outstanding NCO but had made a bad choice and that I would take Sgt Ridgeway before I would take any two NCO’s in the Brigade.

I showed the Colonel that statistically Ridgeway’s platoon outperformed 3 of the 4 platoons in my company and the Brigade Commander knew that my company outperformed the other 3 companies in the Brigade every cycle. He was convinced.

After returning to the company area, I gave SGT Ridgeway a pep talk and encouraged him not to let this incident effect his attitude and to use this as a learning experience.  As I observed him interacting with his men in the following days, I knew he was going to be an outstanding leader.

Two days later the Colonel called me and said he had a problem lieutenant in another company and asked if I would I be willing to take him and try to shape him up.

I said I’d be happy to try.

That will be another story.

NOTE;  SGT Ridgeway was the grandson of General Matthew Ridgeway,  WW II hero and Commander of the famed 82nd Airborne Division who became Army Chief of Staff for President Eisenhower.  I didn’t know that at time of the above incident.

BASIC TRAINING AGAIN

BASIC TRAINING, FORT BLISS TX

This story takes place in El Paso, TX in 1968.  I was in-between tours to Vietnam and was assigned  duties as a Company Commander of a Basic Training Company.  Usually a training cycle lasted 12 weeks.  Two weeks before and after 8 weeks of actual training.   I was at Ft Bliss for four training cycles.

Readers may remember the story about my Basic Training experience in 1960.  In that story I  introduced SSGT Clifford R. Branch.  I was a trainee and SSGT Branch was  my nemesis.  Many things had changed in eight years.  Mainly my attitude toward the military.

On the other hand, SSGT Branch had not changed  one whit.  He was  still a top-notch, hard-nosed Drill Sergeant.  In fact, the whole crew of non-commissioned officers were exceptional.  Which was why the company had won the Brigade competition for Best Company 3 of the 4 cycles that year.

The task of equipping young men to survive and do their job in combat is a somber one.  Since I had recently returned from fighting in the Central Highlands, South Vietnam, I had seen first hand how many of our soldiers were poorly prepared to fight such an enemy. It was my personal commitment to do something about that.  SSGT Branch and the rest of my Drill Sergeants shared this commitment.

I WAS GIVING A MOTIVATIONAL SPEECH EXTOLLING TRAINEES TO LEARN AND TRAIN TO BE THE BEST SOLDIER THEY COULD  BE.  OUR MOTO WAS “YES WE CAN” AND WAS WRITTEN ON EVERY OPEN SPACE IN THE COMPANY AREA.  


Our trainees were evidence of that commitment. They consistently shot better on the range, ran faster on the mile track, scored better on the fire and maneuver exercise and made better grades in the classroom. Obviously it takes a well motivated trainee to consistently perform at such levels.

MARCHING  IN  THE  GRADUATION  PARADE

The kind of motivation I am talking about was not based upon fear.  A properly motivated trainee was a trainee who saw that it is in his interest to perform to the best of his ability. That insight was provided by leadership up and down the chain of command. I gave frequent talks to trainees about my experience as an Infantryman fighting in Vietnam. These talks resonated with the men because many of them would soon be in a similar situation.

SAYING  GOODBYE  TO  THE BATTALION  COMMANDER.   MY NEXT ASSIGNMENT:  PLIEKU,,  SOUTH  VIETNAM

While I was a Platoon Leader in South Vietnam, four good men were Killed In Action. When I talked to the basic trainees about how to stay alive, they listened.  I trusted, that would be the case for those that were going to be sent to Vietnam.

Post Script:

Private Larry Jones was a basic trainee in my Company in 1968 and was also assigned to my Company the following year in Plieku, Vietnam.  I received an email from Larry on December 23rd , 2016.  Larry contacted me to apologize for not calling my wife, Phyllis, as he promised me before he left Vietnam in 1969.

He remembered our conversation 47 years earlier.

 

TEN HOURS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

LOG BOOK ENTRIES, SEPTEMBER 16, 1969

I thought I’d write about a typical day  inside the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) of an Infantry Battalion in combat.  I will be using the daily log and like most days, you may find this one a little boring, but I hope you find the entries informative and interesting.

PICTURE TAKEN NEAR THE TOC, LZ GYPSY.   I BELIEVE THE MAJOR STANDING NEXT TO ME IS THE XO AND THE CAPTAIN ON THE LEFT, THE FIRE DIRECTION OFFICER . I WAS THE OPERATIONS OFFICER FOR ABOUT 5 MONTHS. .

The events were taken from incoming and outgoing calls recorded from midnight to 10:05 the following morning on the 16th of September, 1969..  I was the Battalion Operations Officer and SGT Dill was the Communications NCO.

A log book recorded the activities within our Area of Operations (AO) including activities of units in the battalion, eg. Three infantry companies of approximately 150 men each.  Each company has 4 platoons of 3 squads.  The squad is the smallest maneuver element.  Other units  under the control of the Tactical Operations Center included a weapons company and a reconnaissance platoon.

The following entries was orginally classified.   Subsequently, log books were declassified and are available online for those who are interested.  I’ve included comments which were not in the log sheets to help the reader better understand the entry.  My comments are in parenthesis.

LOG BOOK, THE 1/35th INFANTRY BATTALION, SEPTEMBER 16, 1969

01. 0010 HRS   DUST-OFF COMPLETE  (A Soldier with a stomach ache was evacuated by helicopter.  Doctor later determined it was appendicitis).

02.  0100 HRS   Bde informed of MAD MINUTE  (On order every man on the  perimeter of LZ Gyspy fired his weapon for one minute.  A Mad Minute was not a scheduled event.  The irregular firing of individual weapons had two purposes.  First, it served as a warning to attackers and also allowed soldiers to ensure their weapons were firing properly.)

03.  0200 HRS  Neg Situation report to Bde.   (sit rep)  (No action in units of the battalion).

04.  0205 HRS   Fr Bde – request Snoopy box#4    (OK ‘d Request for aircraft (AC) to fire saturation fires on a predetermined target within our AO, box #4.   The US Air Force AC-130A , Snoopy, aka Puff the Magic Dragon, is a side-firing gunship, primarily for night attacks against ground troops. The AC-130A or C-47 were equipped with three 7.62 mini-guns capable of firing 900 rounds a second at an altitude of 3000 feet with pinpoint accuracy.  It is said that Snoopy can fire a bullet in every square meter of a football field in 10 seconds.  (see  You tube, Snoopy).

05.  0210 HRS   Request approved  Snoopy box #5.  (Checked to confirm area was clear of friendlies before approving).

06.  0300 HRS   Neg Sit rep  (No action in units of the battalion).

07.  0340 HRS   C Co to cordone village AM  (VC were known to be  in village, described mission for next day,  gave location and  support needed, air support on standby, artillery, etc.).

08.  0400 HRS   Neg Sit   (No action in units in the  battalion).

09.  0410 HRS   From Bde – request Snoopy box  (OK’d Request for AC to fire saturation fires in AO, box #5, preselected boundaries marked and distributed to all units involved ).

10.  0500 HRS   Neg Sit rep (No action units in battalion).

11.  0600 HRS   Neg Sit rep  (No action units in battalion).

12.  0720 HRS   From Bde-request 2 Snoopy Boxs (OK’d Req for AC to fire saturtion fires in AO, boxes 6 & 11).

13.  0750  HRS   From S-1:  Did you put SGT……in for Army Commendation Medal?  (Yes recommended SGT Collins for Medal, gave supporting details).

14.  0800 HRS  To S-4:   get recount of # 90 & 91 (Got headcount of two units and gave to S-3 by 1100 hours.  Supply Officer needed headcount to calculate resupply of rations, water and other needed items).

15.  0813 HRS  from D Co:   LP’s (listening posts) returned to CP   ( Co gave ID of 3x Listening Posts rtn to command post (CP).

16.  0830 HRS   From A Co: 451 sweep, neg findings  (# 451 identified a particular squad within the Platoon and Company) Squad swept  perimeter, rtn to Command Post).

17.  0840 HRS    From 07:  need 2 day of H2O,.… (Recon req supplies, ammo, mines, flares, C4 for ops lasting 2 days).

18.  0850 HRS  From 07: depart for 23BM, then NE  (Recon departed for LZ, pickup supplies, then depart on ops).

19.  0853 HRS   From C Co: 45B departed for sweep   (Squad sweep of perimeter, return to Command Post).

20.  0855 HRS  From 25 to D Co: Line 39 return to Bn Send  (#39 is name of man) to Bn for reassignment).

21.  0910 HRS   Recon at 23BM awaiting resupply  (Chopper on the way).

22.  0910 HRS  From S-3 to BN CDR: prep needed? (Asking:  do you need artillery fires on  LZ BUFF to clear possible booby trps?

23.  0910  HRS  3rd plt, C Co, found arms cache, gave loc of en cache and hosp complex, will search & report findings.

24.  0935 HRS   LZ BUFF insertion  complete, NE.  (CO D landed at LZ BUFF and moving NE).

25.  1005 HRS   4.2 testing 50. cal to S Gypsy  (Mortar plt testing Hvy MG, 50. cal).

Approximately 100 entries were rerecorded on the September 16, 1969.  Many more when units were in contact with the enemy.  Two men were on duty at night and three or more in the daytime.  Most of the time I slept on a cot in the TOC a got about four hours of sleep.

Keeping an accurate  log book was the reponsibility of SGT Dill and the TOC radio operators.  I could always depend on SGT Dill to keep good records and to keep me informed of important developments.

As reflected in most of the entries, things were pretty slow.  Most of the stories I have written have been action stories.  However, for every one day of action, they’re many days of boring inaction.

The task before the soldier was to stay alert and be ready for what could happen in a blink of an eye.  Boredom is the natural enemy of readiness.

 

RECORD YOUR FAMILY HISTORY THROUGH STORIES

 

                                               When is 5 cents the same as $10.

Some readers have expressed a desire to write stories about their families.  They usually ask how to get started and were to get the stories.

My advice is this:  Write about events and places about which you have fond memories. If you have trouble getting started or have trouble getting the creative juices flowing, open up an old album and start reminiscing.  Your spouse or a long time friend can help with details you may not remember.

Another thing you should do  is get into the habit of taking notes on your iPhone, ipad, or with a pencil so that you can  record a passing thought that triggers your memory about a particular event .  I’ve found that if I don’t make a note I have trouble remembering later.

When you start writing, pay no attention to punctuation or spelling.  You can clean it up later.  Write while the thought is fresh and the words will flow.  After you have written a few paragraphs, put the story down and come back a day or so later and add or subtract as you see fit.  I usually do this at least a half dozen times until I get the story I want to tell.

I THINK THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN IN 1968 OF MY DAD, ALFRED, AND I

I started by writing about my father and my own childhood experiences living on a farm south of Muskogee (aside from a few stories about Vietnam).   I started there because my long term memory seems to be better than the shorter one.

I also try to include a principle or moral lesson as a central part of  the story.  One which can be remembered and passed on the next generation.

An example comes to mind.  During our Christmas reunion last week, our daughter, Cynthia told about going to the store recently to buy a few items, which included two bags of ice.  Later that day she realized that she had paid for only one bag. She immediately returned to the store and paid for the  extra bag of ice.

Cynthia reminded us of the story which had provided her a guide in such matters.

MY FATHER, ALFRED, FISHING IN THE ARKANSAS RIVER, 1960’S.

“In the 1960’s, her grandfather Burr had traveled to Muskogee to borrow money from a bank because he was struggling to make ends meet.  When he returned to Warner, he discovered that the cashier had given him a nickel too much.”

“Although it was only a nickel, he went back the same day and returned the money.”  when asked why he would do such a thing, he said , “The money didn’t belong to me, whether it was a nickel or $10, the idea was the same”.

Although Cynthia was only a few years old when it happened,  She remembered because the story, had been told and retold many times.

PICTURE OF OUR FAMILY TAKEN IN 1998, SPRINGFIELD MO. FROM TOP RIGHT, PHYLLIS, JACK, SUSAN AND RICK,  RANDY, DONNA, AND DAUGHTER CYNTHIA,  CYNTHIA HOLDING VENESSA, MELLISA, KIMBERLY, FRONT ROW FROM RIGHT TO LEFT EVAN, BETHANY AND MIKE.

 

 

Talking about such memories binds the family together and gives each member a sense of a common heritage.  It makes you glad to be a part of your family.

Go write.

 

Note:  Cynthia is in the center of the picture on the left holding her daughter,  Venessa, who is now  attending college in Texas.

She too knows the story about her great grandfather, Alfred Burr.

 

1959 WAS A GOOD YEAR

 

THE FIRST YEAR OF MARRIAGE

MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE AND I STARTING A NEW LIFE TOGETHER.

1959 was a good year and  bad year.  During the first year of married life we moved five times.   First, we lived on the third floor of the Red Fork Cove Apts three doors down from Porky and Pansy …..

Porky and I worked for a prefab building company on the north side of Tulsa.  Looking back,  Porky and I were a bad influence on each other.  But how could I know?

We had been working there for about 2 weeks when the foreman came by and looked up to where we working on top of a structure. He began by criticizing our work.

We looked at each other and started climbing down. Without saying a word and while the boss  was still talking we walked off the job. I guess that didn’t make much sense but we were young and a little bit reckless.

Phyllis took a more mature attitude toward my actions. She pointed out that we had bills to pay and I needed that job because jobs in Tulsa were hard to come by in the late 1950’s.  She was right.  But we did have time to go fishing and sleep on the river bank.

Predictably, I was not able to find a job and a few weeks later Phyllis and I decided that we had no other choice but to we move in with my folks who invited us to do so. I began working more diligently trying to find a job.

Moving in with family maybe a good idea sometimes but most of the time independent people need their space.

Fortunately, I got a call from Gaso Pump and Burner where I had left an application a few weeks earlier.

 

 

Gaso was a good company to work for but I wanted to do more than sweep floors.  I liked the congenial working environment and the wage of $1.65 an hour.

Although I had a nominal background for office work, I inquired for a job in administration.  The interview was disappointing.

Gaso was unwilling to hire me for such an important position unless I had my military obligation behind me.

The Military Draft was a real possibility given the world situation in 1959.   I told Phyllis what I was thinking and asked her what she thought. Her response was the same whenever I asked the same question over the next many years. “Whatever you decide, I’ll follow you anywhere”.

  Even after 59 years of marriage she has the same attitude.  (Our 59th anniversary was 12/27/17).

I enlisted in the U. S. Army on January 8, 1960, and departed for basic training at Ft Riley Kansas.  I was given two weeks of Kitchen Police while waiting for my training to commence.

On the first day I met my drill sergeant, SGT Clifford R Branch,  who seemed intent on making my life miserable for eight weeks.  (see my basic training  experience)

So much for the tranquil life experienced in the the first year of our marriage.

 

A PROMISE MADE, A PROMISE KEPT

 

A GREAT HOME ON WHEELS

A GREAT HOME ON WHEELS

A PROMISE MADE, A PROMISE KEPT

It was the summer of 1995.  Our three children were married and had children of their own.  Phyllis and I lived in Springfield, MO and were busy with our own lives.

From time to time, Phyllis reminded me of the promise I had made many years earlier when she and our family followed me all over the United States and to Germany.

 

I had promised that someday, after the kids were gone, we would enjoy life by traveling around the United States.  We had been out of the Army for about 10 years when I became the librarian at Baptist Bible College (BBC).  My long suffering wife had not pressed the issue even though our kids were grown and making lives for themselves.

 

We were both busy.   Cherry Street Baptist Church was a major part of our lives.  Phyllis was in the choir and involved in other activities.  The picture on the left is of Phyllis modeling in a Church fashion show.

I was involved with Church administration and teaching classes.  During this time I unsuccessfully ran for a position on the Springfield Public School board.

We were too busy.  In retrospect I can see that volunteering for this and that good cause can be a good thing but our lives were out of balance.

 

Further, we were foster parents for a while when Cynthia, our youngest was still at home.  All of us fell in love with the girls and  enjoyed them immensely. Christa is on Phyllis’ lap and  Susan on the left.

 

I still had not kept the promise I had made.

 

 

As the Librarian at Baptist Bible College, I occasionally went on business trips.  On one of these trips Phyllis and I took our fifth wheel camper to Florida where the Association of Christian Librarians (ACL) held their meeting that year. The ACL supported  Christian Colleges and Universities all over the world preparing men and women for the cause of Christ.

After parking the camper and getting everything set up, I went to the ACL meeting.  The Board members finished Association business, and then, out of the blue, the Secretary place m y name in nomination for  President of the ACL.  Since I had been a member for only three yeas, I was surprised and flattered.

Obviously, the secretary had talked to each of the 12 board members because everyone voiced support for my nomination.  The meeting adjourned about midnight.  I was elated thinking about all the things I could do as President as I returned to the RV park.

I excitedly told Phyllis about the meeting and my potential election as President of the Association.  She did not share my excitement. and asked me a simple question. “Do you remember the promise you made to me when you got out of the Army?”

Every bit of the excitement I had felt a minute ago vanished.  Of course, I remembered and was suddenly overcome with guilt.  Phyllis had been patient with me for all those years.  What I was planning to do  would change the direction of our lives.  Different from the life I had promised Phyllis.

Two days later we returned to Springfield, MO and  I submitted my resignation to the President of BBC.   We sold our house a few months after that.

We enjoyed our travels around the US for over three years in the late 1990”s. Mainly we spent the winters in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas where we played Golf and Bingo. We traveled north in the summer to Michigan where we played Golf and Bingo. We both had a great time.

 

I kept my promise.

 

Now skipping ahead about 20 years to 2016, we  traveled around the U.S. again for a year.  We may travel again and  wherever we go, I think we will play Golf and Bingo.

 

The lesson I learned is this:  Don’t get so tied up in doing “Good Works” that you get your life out of balance and forget what’s important.

 

 

 

 

NOTE:  Because of my health problems, we curtailed full timing and bought a house in Broken Arrow near a VA clinic earlier this year.   Although  we no longer live in our motor home,  we still plan to camp.  I think it’s in our DNA to travel and see the country we love.

SEE THE BUFFALO IN THE BACKGROUND

PICTURE TAKEN JUNE, 2016 IN THE BLACK HILLS NATIONAL PARK, SD.

 

RECOVERY OF VIETNAM VETERAN: JACK BURR

THE ROAD TO RECOVERY:  JACK BURR

My purpose in posting this account is the hope that it may be of help to others who identify with the struggle to reconcile the incongruities of combat .  Such as the question:  “why was I spared when the soldier next to me was not?” When I tried to answer this question, irrational  guilt ensued, followed by depression.  Sometimes, dark and deep, but always silence in my conversation with others.

PHYLLIS AND I IN THE BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, SD, JUNE, 2016, DURING OUR YEAR LONG VACATION LIVING IN OUR CAMPER.

I’m 77 years old.  The older I get the more inclined I am to be frank and honest with others.  But most of all with myself.  Which brought me to the place where I admitted that I had been troubled with depression for many years.

I never believed in the crock of PTSD.  People who are unable to deal with hard times are simply weak.  But I’ve changed my mind since I have time to let my mind wonder untethered . It finds places I had locked up memories of unreconciled thoughts.

The truth of combat is grisly, ugly and unforgettable. I sometimes would wake at night and wonder why unbidden thoughts brought tears leaking from my eyes.  I was reliving the heartbreak of a lost comrade or carrying a dead soldier away from enemy bullets.

After many such sleepless nights during the intervening years,  I brought my malady to Phyllis, my understanding wife.  This first step on the road to recovery was taken August, 2016.  She listened and offered ways to regain my emotional balance.  I had been silent for exactly 50 years.

The avenue to wellness was to probe my memory for causative details which before I was unwilling or unable to do so. Writing about those details was therapeutic and liberating. One thing led to another and now I am writing about people and events that are important to me. My family.

I have also written several story about Vietnam and my experience there .  Some are posted here.  (1/35 Infantry Regiment  website) Others can be found at www.possumhollar.com.

During the past year I have renewed acquantances with 10 of the men with  whom I served.  Each has contributed a bit on my road to recovery.  I owe much to Pace Caldwell.  See our story posted here describing events which occurred January, 1967.

Also, meeting Eddie Dill was a seminal moment in my road to recovery..  See our story posted here “Righteous Anger”, and “Finding Sgt Eddie Douglas Dill”, on my website.

As I look back on these memories I sometimes wonder:  was the fighting and dying worth it?  In retrospect, I think not.  As incongruous as this may seem,  I would do it again.  It was a lawful order and I was a soldier.

A good one I hope.

 

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