Back at Southern Command HQ.
My itinerary was ummm, trying. Outbound: DFW to Atlanta, Atlanta to San Diego; inbound: San Diego to Atlanta, Atlanta to San Antonio, San Antonio to DFW.
Exactly 3,031.6 air miles, but who’s counting?
A health/travel tip… as I expected, that many flights, that many people and this time of year, I got a sinus infection. But this trip I was armed with Zicam, and for the second or third time in the last 6-8 months it was effective in cutting my symptoms and usual discomfort about 75%.
The trip was sad, but enriching and positive at the same time. I watched my friend, Hap Arnold endure the deepest pain of his life and the most unexpected.
Until last week he’d always assumed, as we always do, that the order of death would follow the order of birth. That unexpected and untidy monkey wrench of fate bedeviled the accountant-minds of Hap and younger Brother Darrel.
Even actuarial tables indicate Darrel was deprived of 20 years. Naturally, the other “brothers” were there.
The best thing about my time in California was then and is now the greatest friends a man could have… and most of us met in 1963.
That’s within a sand-wedge of 50 years, half a century…. almost 350 in dog years.
My high school friends and I have found that most people are astounded at this; and we are astounded right back. We cannot believe that some folks have never attended their high school reunions… hell, we have one every five years. Most of us have perfect attendance.
We still correspond with Pete Gianopulos, our high school counselor and WWII Army Ranger, now in his 80s, who is Mayor Emeritus and historian of our hometown, Taft California.
We were able to have a lot of one-on-one time during our five-hour drive to Bakersfield.
Mix is HMHIC… Head Mother Hen In Charge… he rates his own blog entry as to why that is, but I’ll write it another time. Suffice to say that “Reach Out (I'll Be There)” by the Four Tops is his theme song.
He added to that resume with 20+ years in the Navy.
Always the host, Mix took me to North Harbor Drive, alongside the Navy Pier where the USS Midway, now a floating museum, is birthed. It was nighttime, but we were able to see a great tribute to Bob Hope, who defined the USO with his 50 years of service to our military.
He is remembered with bronze statues in tableau representing him and the multitudes of troops and his hundreds of USO shows between 1942 and the 1990s; he entertained three generations of US servicemen and women with humor and a touch of home when they needed it most.
An audio tape loop of his USO routines playing nearby added to the touching memorial.
Mix indulged me with visits to MCAS-San Diego and MCRD where we briefly witnessed the graduation of 400+ brand new Marines who are now charged with the responsibility to serve Country and Corps with the same devotion as those who served before.
At Mix’s palatial estate (he’ll hate that), Mrs. Mix, Michele, was a most gracious hostess during my stay. And since I require that all my friends have great pets, I’ll note that the Mixes have two cats of a most refined temperament.
The hospitality continued as Mix and I drove north for Brother Darrel’s funeral duty in Bakersfield.
There we stayed with Mix’s son, Jayson, a teacher, who helped with bed, coffee, his great dog—Sam—and provided (in a critical zipper malfunction of my ancient Wranglers) a replacement pair.
I like telling folks that “Rosey” is my close personal friend; they assume that I have a girl on the line… like that’s likely.
“Rosey” is short for Rosenberg…. a hard-charging Army Ranger combat medic who, like my friend Johnny Mac always said, paid the price “for serving with Uncle Sam’s Finest”. And… he “had me” at enlisting is the Marine Corps (ANGLICO) after seven years as a “snake eater”, giving him 15 years of patriotic military service.
When I told him that Hap’s brother had been taken, he said, “when do I need to be there”?
That’s the kind of friends my friends have.
I have to add…. we think Rosey and Joe Pesci were separated at birth…(here, I attempted to help with my best De Niro.)
One night after a fine dinner at Macaroni Grill we started laughing so hard that we were begging
Pesci Rosey to stop his rapid fire wisecracks before we were arrested for disturbance of the peace.
Those several minutes were the equivalent to five hours’ therapy.
I’d estimate about 150 folks gathered in a quiet cemetery for Darrel’s send-off; figures…. they throw a big party for you on the very day you can’t make it.
Hap and I agreed that Darrel was the last one we thought would become a thumb-typing addict. It’s still hard to believe that I won’t be getting any more 3 a.m. text messages from him, taking me to task on all things political… or about the once mighty Raiders.
His son Darren is now the last of his lineage and has the responsibility of passing along the name; Hap demands it… he still has time to teach the kid how to throw a curveball, and I have time to teach him to be a Yankees fan.
All hands (all Vietnam or Vietnam Era veterans) were on deck for Darrel’s wake… left to right: Larry Dillard, USN; Larry West, USA, Paul Rosenberg, USA/USMC; Lawrence Hildebrand, USAF; Richard Mixon, USN; Ray Abney, and myself, USMC. And all 1966 graduates, Taft Union High School.
Thanks, my friends.