Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Yours To Count On

J.E.B. Stuart
All things evolve and words are no exception.  For example, originally a cavalier was the name given by puritans to royalist supporters of King Charles.  Not a desirable name.  Over time Cavalier evolved to mean a flamboyant, supportive soldier. 

James Ewell Brown Stuart, commonly known as "Jeb," is often called "the last Cavalier."  The West Point graduate was a cavalry general who served under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War.

Lee called Jeb, my good right arm.  Stuart was notorious for the daring recon missions he led, usually conducted far behind enemy lines.  In his detailed written accounts of those missions to General Lee, he signed under the closing line, "Yours to count on."

I've had the good fortune to know a few cavaliers in my time, men and women I knew I could always count.  My cavaliers include, Lieutenant Bogdue, helicopter pilot, once a Sergeant, then a Warrant Officer, and finally a commissioned officer, thanks to a battlefield commission following his unsupported rescue of a General during the war in Vietnam.  And there was Private Castellanous, who defied mortars and rockets to make sure "I was alright."  And of course there is always Christina, my good right arm, who always has my back.

Before Bogdue, Castellanous, and Christina, I had another cavalier, Gerald Decker.  Prior to Vietnam, I was stationed at Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio).  There I worked for Gerald Decker, the smartest man I've ever known.  Though he left school when he was 14, Gerald radiated intelligence.  He was born and raised in Detroit, where he lived on the street from the time his old man kicked him out of the house at age 15, until a judge gave him a choice of prison or the army.

In less than three years, without serving in Vietnam, Decker rocketed through the ranks, from Private to Staff Sergeant.  When he told me of the choices offered by the judge, he added, "I'm not sure I picked the best one."

I had been at Fort Sam about four months, when I was joined by my wife.  She tried, but couldn't get a job in San Antonio because soldier's were moved often unexpectedly, and their wives went with them or back home.  We lived off-base, on my E-4 salary.  To say we were strapped would be an huge understatement.  Decker, my section leader, knew our financial situation and asked if I would like to work Friday and Saturday nights, with him, at The Landing.   I said "YES!" and became his assistant bartender.

We rode to work together and got to know each other pretty well.  He told me about his life on the streets of Detroit, but I had serious problems relating his stories to the soft spoken, straight-arrow, young Staff Sergeant I knew.  My skepticism disappeared at 4 AM one Sunday morning.

We were on our way home.  I was driving. The streets were empty, or so I thought until a car pulled to a stop beside us at a traffic light.  I turned to my left, noting there were  two young men in the front seat and three, maybe four more in the back seat.  I locked eyes with the passenger, smiled and nodded.  He gave me an angry look, then leaned out his open window and aimed a pistol at my face.  Before I could move or scream or even think about what was happening, he pulled the trigger.  Fire erupted from the muzzle of the gun as the sound filled my head.

I sensed, but could not hear Decker shouting as he leaped from the car.  I turned to my right just as he leveled the little automatic pistol I carried in the glove box at the shooter and methodically began firing.  I've often thanked God for Decker, and that he was a horrible shot, and that I saw him transform himself from Clark Kent to Superman and, of course, I gave thanks that the kid was firing blanks that night.

Why that story on this day?  Because I always like to spend some time, at the beginning of a new year, recalling the cavaliers in my life and giving thanks that they were and are there.  Maybe that's something you enjoy also, and who knows, maybe you'll share one of your cavaliers in the comments below.

8 comments:

  1. A 'Cavalier attitude ' is of course used as a negative term and yet Cavaliers were heralded as heroic.

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    Replies
    1. David,
      Evolution is an amazing process.
      Thanks for the comment and all my best to Rupert and the rest of yours. An amazing New Year to you all.
      Bert

      Delete
    2. Wow! What an experience, Bert! I'm glad it was blanks too! And thanks for the reminder that all of us have a hero within to call on!

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  2. There is something "super" in everyone just waiting to pop out at the most unlikely time. Most are fortunate that they never have the "opportunity". Those who serve in combat have plenty of opportunities. So do parents, especially mothers. "Don't poke the bear" is good advice when confronted with daddy bear. But "Don't get between a mother and her cubs" may just send you looking for daddy with a stick...

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    Replies
    1. Captain,
      I do appreciate your comments and look forward to you popping out. In fact, I count on it, my friend.
      Thanks for being there,
      Bert

      Delete
  3. This is a comment on today's blog, sent by email from my friend, Steve Lucanic.
    Happy New Year Bert,

    I truly appreciate your blog today. You may not remember this but when I served in Silent Service in Mentone years ago (1990 or 1991, I believe) You knew I was hurting. I sat in the back of the room, quieting as was my job and you told a captivating story. You said while in Vietnam it was necessary while in a helicopter to sit back to back looking outside the open doors. You said that it was important to have someone you trust behind you. We all listened and then you said that there is one man in this room that you'd be proud to have at your back; his name is Steve Lucanic.

    I was totally surprised and taken back. I probably had a tear in my eye and it released me from the pain I was in. It shock me back into the moment and allowed me to feel peace, enjoy the 3-3 days in service and maybe even be of value to the new arrivals (as it was my job to do). You took me to the airport after the weekend was all gone. We talked and you gave me a pocket knife and something else; maybe a small flashlight.

    I've never forgotten how you truly were mine to count on, even when I didn't know it showed nor that I needed what you blessed me with. To this day, you bring a warm spot in my heart whenever I think of you. I'd like to think I would always have your back if you ever needed me.

    My best to you and Christina,

    Steve

    Bert Carson
    3:24 AM (6 minutes ago)
    to Stevelucanic

    When the engine has been started and all items on the check-list have been performed, the aircraft commander flips the radio to intercom (only the AC, co-pilot, crew chief and door gunner are on the intercom channel) and says, "Gentlemen, we are ready to fly." At that point, the door gunner (on the right side facing out) makes one last visual check around the ship, opens his mic and says, "We are clear on the right, Sir." Then the crew chief (on the left facing out) opens his mic and says, "And we are clear on the left, Sir." Then, the AC would say something like, "Gentlemen, we are now history in this place," as he twisted the throttle, and lifted the collective. Instantly the Huey went light on its skids and then we flew.

    As always, your task is to clear us on the right. I'll clear us on the left. Then we will fly.

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  4. You are a lucky man to have so many cavaliers in your life - but what I really think is wonderful is that you are also a good man, a grateful one and not afraid to thank the worthy people around you. That's really great, and a great start to the new year - which I hope will bring you all the blessings you are hoping for!

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  5. I grew up with no Cavaliers or back up. As the oldest of my siblings, I suppose I was the one who was the one who had everyone's back. I was the defender, the protector and yes, at times the disciplinarian. It always gave me a sense of purpose to be of assistance as I had none to assist me. I am thankful for the years I could help others.

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