One of the things I’ve been doing in these stories is writing down history. I’ve written down a number of stories about my dad and his time in the military. There are others in the works, but I happened to run across a few I’d convinced him to write before he passed away. They’re rare because he printed them, and then later the computer they were stored on was stolen, so there are only four stories I have that he actually wrote. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m doing my own writing – so my kids can see and read some of the stories that are part of their history and that they’ve heard over the years.
So for today’s post, I’ll actually have a “guest writer” – this is actually kind of hard to write here, but I’m going to introduce you to my dad, Gary, who you may have read about here.
For this story, we have to travel back in time to about 1952, when my dad was about 21, in the Air Force, and not much past basic training. Back then, in the military, if things didn’t fit their preconceived ideas of what was right, those things got fixed or removed. It was understandable. If you were in battle, you had to be 100% capable of doing whatever they told you to do, and if, for example, a toothache kept you from your post, and that post was overrun by your opponent because you weren’t there, then that tooth simply had to go, to save you, and potentially your unit. Dad had been through basic training, where, as with everyone, a lot of stuff got fixed. But there were some things they decided needed to be removed, and in dad’s case, it was all of his teeth. So they all came out, and were replaced with false ones.
At the time, dad was pretty close to the bottom of the ladder when it came to seniority, and in the military, there were enlisted men (and in those days, a few women), and there were officers. In short, there were followers, and there were leaders. The officers were the leaders, and the good ones took care of their followers. As a result, there is a culture of respect and honor between the enlisted and the officers, and the enlisted always stood up and honored their officers with a salute, until the officer gave them permission to be “at ease”. At the time, the lowest officer rank was a 2nd Lieutenant, with a brass bar about an inch long and 3/8ths of an inch wide showing the rank. A 1st Lieutenant had the same bar, but silver, and a Captain had two silver ones, one beside the other. They were known, at the time, as Captain’s tracks.
With that introduction, let’s enter a military Barracks, where dad’s sitting on his bunk, with a cigarette butt can in his hands that he was spitting blood into. The following words are his – unedited. This is the story of his…
…coming back to the barracks after having had my teeth pulled. I’d had nine of them out that day and was feeling pretty poorly. There was no one else in the building, and I heard him come in. I felt quite self-conscious about having a butt can in my hands and making such a feeble attempt at coming to attention. He was my commander. A young pilot just back from the fighting in Korea. He wore the tracks of a captain and I accorded him that honor. I was weak from shock and blood loss, and staggered as he came up to me.
He asked what the trouble was and I spoke through the rolls of cotton they had stuffed my mouth with telling him I was getting all my teeth out and had had nine done that day. He looked at me with concern asking if he could do anything for me.
I told him that a coke out of the next barracks would be heavenly.
He turned and walked out the door, and came back a few seconds later with the frosty bottle in his hand.
I took the unopened bottle and put it on my jaws where I hurt and dug into my pocket to give him the money for it, but he didn’t want my money.
He shipped out a week later and I heard he’d gotten killed in a plane crash.
His name was Lemmual Pierson.
I still owe him a dime.
I thought about that young man, my dad, less than half my age now, and that young Captain Pierson – not much older. It’d be neat to find the family of Captain Pierson to thank them, and let them know how valuable a gift their father, and/or grandfather gave to my dad, a gift that was so valuable it paid dividends almost 60 years later.
Even if it only cost a dime.