It was December 1999 for me and my wife. But, our divorce papers arrived at the house, and dissolved that status. For the first time in nearly two decades, we were both single. Where most divorced men find that refreshing, I certainly did not.
To pour salt into the wound, my son had left home. He was heading for the military. This too, bothered me. My attitude was in a very sour state; I felt like everything I worked for to benefit the family was now gone, and with temporary tunnel vision, I figured probably never meant anything in the first place.
So, soon I left the house that my wife, my child and I had lived in. But, I was only gone for three days. My wife wanted me back home, and I wanted to come back home.
Although we were not married, we stayed together for the coming years as if we were. Then, there came a time where it was truly right to take away the label of “Almost”, and replace it with, “We did it again, and this time we made it, baby.”
I like being married, especially to the right woman. So we did do it again. And, without doubt she is the right woman. This song ALMOST said it all for us;
I remember vividly back when I was seven years old. My parents had an archery tournament to go to and my older brother was told to watch me in the park, which was located right next to the archery course while they competed against other archers in a local tournament.
I was having fun jumping picnic tables. Then, as I made my next leap, my brother pulled the picnic table away from me. My face came crashing down on the corner of the wood seat. I could feel the pain of a chunk of what I assumed to be wood in my face. I could feel the blood gushing from me. I wasn’t seeing anything, but I heard a lot of voices screaming. I did need help.
Soon, two paramedics arrived. I felt them working on my face. I could hear them talking to me, attempting to calm my fears. They then lifted me to a stretcher, and told me I was going to take a short ride in an ambulance.
I remember my Dad, only, at my bedside when I arrived at the hospital. I heard the surgeon tell my father that this operation was going to be risky. The wood was awful close to my eye, and seemingly, at this point, according to the doctor had not yet penetrated my left eye.
In the recovery room, after surgery, I recall the doctor telling my father that there were still several wood fragments left in the region of my left eye. He said attempting to remove these fragments was a chance that just was not worth taking. I understood the doctor was doing all he could do to save my vision in this eye. I was glad my father was with me.
I wore a patch over my eye for the next ten days. I then returned to see the surgeon. I was relieved. When the patch was taken off, I could see. But, everything was blurry. The doctor said this would improve with time.
Two weeks later I went back to school. I was in the first grade. I already knew, the fact was, I would never see right again. So, I was sitting in the cafeteria eating when I realized my classmates sitting across from me were staring at my eye. Finally, one kid said, “Look everybody, he has a crazy eye! Look at it!” I ran out of the lunchroom and into the lavatory. I looked closely at my eye in the mirror. I then moved my mouth like I was eating. I yelled, “Oh my God!” My eye was popping up and down uncontrollably. My eye had, in fact, gone crazy.
This began many people seeing me as an outcast, a weirdo, not being right as a person. I always tried to avoid eating with people. When I was at the table with others, I tried to hide my “crazy eye”. But, people still saw the eye, and chastised me for it. I finally come to the age in my early teens where I had no other choice than to stand up for myself. This was done in physical fighting. The battles were aplenty. In the early days, I lost a good many fights. But, when I reached my mid-teens, I would never lose another physical fight over my crazy eye again. These fights went all the way up into my early 50’s, when finally, the nerve reactions in my right eye had subsided to where the pulsation of this eye was barely noticeable.
Besides the many fist fights I had with these provokers, I hit one in the face with an aluminum food tray, shot another in the face repeatedly with mace, and the final one was a fellow prison guard whom harassed me so bad I finally resorted to force stuffing his back pockets with toilet paper that was soaked with lighter fluid. I lit him on fire for only approximately three seconds. I put the flames out immediately with a CO2 fire extinguisher. He had no real injuries besides that of his ego. But, I warned him and the rest of his "red neck" buddies to leave me and my eye alone. It wasn’t odd that no one after that made fun of my crazy eye, even if others could see my eye acting up. It is true to say all people afterwards now saw my “Eye of the Storm” in a different way.
The Stardust Hotel on the Las Vegas strip back in 2005 hosted “Singsations”; an amateur singing club. We actually gave some great singing performances.
But, there was one dynamic lady, one true to life person of who was at the top of categories such as, talent, refinement, elegance, style, flair and panache.
I was sitting backstage waiting to be introduced for the first time at the Stardust Lounge. “Brandy Rae” had a problem with her costume. She didn’t have time to go to her dressing room to change. She had to make the conversion right there in front of me. I closed my eyes and turned my head away from Brandy Rae. I stayed that way until Brandy Rae came beside me and kissed me on the cheek. She said, “Thank you for being a gentleman.” We were true friends after that.
I still recall that chilling moment when I was informed that Brandy Rae’s life was taken. I couldn’t believe it. Later, I tried going back to the same club, to sing. Yes, the place was packed, once again. But, in my eyes, the hall was empty without Brandy Rae. I never went back again. I couldn't. I will always miss you!
As a United States Marine, I had arrived in the Vietnam region right in the middle of the aftershocks of the once longstanding war that Americans fought, and in the end, lost against the North Viet-Cong. The horrific reverberations, for civilians, in many situations, left the former South Vietnamese people fleeing their homeland as refugees, or who were better known in those days as the “Boat People”. Their chances at surviving were slim. And, of perishing at sea, those likelihoods, for them, were most probable. America was surely taking a bad situation, and making it all much worse for these innocent people. I’ll begin the story now.
I was on the flight deck of a U.S. Helicopter Carrier in my physical training gear, exercising. I knew of some history of the South China Sea; it was not inviting. These seawaters were most approximating to a floating graveyard. I saw off in the short distance, a tug boat sized vessel floating aimlessly, without power. As our ship neared, I saw people packed together like sardines, in filthy conditions. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that these people, mostly women and children were desperate for help.
I watched and listened as the ship’s Executive Officer talked with a male spokesman for the refugees. This discussion turned quickly towards the direction of becoming an argument. Apparently, the refugees wanted “safe haven” on our ship, and the orders from the Captain of our ship was to decline their requests. In a state of utter confusion, I watched navy personnel begin loading supplies onto the refugee’s boat. I wondered what possible purpose this would have since there was little doubt the refugee’s boat was not seaworthy. Suddenly, I see eight male Vietnamese refugees attempt to force their way onto our ship. Their attempts were repelled. The announcement from the Captain came over the ship’s “1MC”, “Prepare to get underway”. Moments later, our ship was departing the scene. But, the lines that temporarily tied our ship to the refugee boat had not been undone. I watched, and photographed, in disbelief, as the lines strained, and then broke away forcefully from the refugee boat. The side panels of the refugee boat were torn off. Within just seconds, the refugee boat was sinking into the South China Sea. I, in specific, photographed a Vietnamese lady clutching tightly her newborn child in her arms as their boat sunk into the seawaters.
I was both disturbed with the way this incident was handled, and perturbed with both the Captain and Executive officers. There was no way I was going to allow this act of virtual mass murder to go unreported. However, I knew I would have to venture outside my chain of command. I made a complete hand written report and submitted copies of all evidentiary photographs taken into one package of official papers to my Senator in my home State of Maryland.
This report became exposed to naval authorities by my mother. We’ve always had our differences, but I couldn’t believe she did that! I had trouble gaining access to my Senator’s address while deployed overseas on ship. So, I was left with little to no choice, and mailed the incident package to my mother’s house. I asked her to forward the package to our Senator’s office in Washington, D.C... The navy wanted me court-martialed. Most of my Marine Corps and Navy peers saw me as a traitor too. But, the most hurtful was my immediate family believing that I was a turncoat.
However, Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, Senator Sarbanes and President Jimmy Carter saw it differently. President Carter issued an “Executive Order” for all U.S. ships to pick up Vietnamese refugees and care for them appropriately. Three decades later, I had a very short conversation with former President Jimmy Carter. He, himself, in his words gave me a “Presidential Seal of Healing”. From this point on, it never did matter what anyone else thought. Even though I always thought I was right in what I did, without doubt, so did the President of the United States.
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I had been rushed to the Desert Springs hospital in Las Vegas in the winter of 2012. I was shocked. The doctors told me I was going to make it. Well, at least temporarily. I really didn’t expect when I went into the hospital by way of ambulance that I could possibly continue to breath. My doctors at the hospital after a period of time even wanted to send me home. I thought, how wonderful, I’ll get to pass away from this Earth at my residence. To have this option I considered myself very lucky. Especially when I saw what was to take place in the room next to me. While I was being processed for discharge, this elderly woman was hurried into the ER room right next to me. She was screaming for somebody to help her. The medical staff I saw, myself, were doing all they could for this lady. But, she didn’t know it. She had no family left, no children, no friends, nothing. She begged, and begged, and begged for help screaming from at the top of her lungs. I tried talking to her, myself. Nothing worked. Finally, even though struggling, I began singing “What A Wonderful World” to her; I see trees of green, red roses too I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they’re really saying, I love you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world Yes I think to myself, what a wonderful world, oh yeah!!! The elderly lady quieted. As I continued to sing, I heard the lady humming along.. For once, you could hear a pin drop in the emergency room. Everybody was listening to the song When I stopped singing, the elderly lady was asleep; resting comfortably. My God, isn’t singing wonderful???
"When family violates the sanctity of their deceased, it is an act that shall never be forgiven." This is a true story, to the best of my knowledge and recollections. Information obtained from public record searches are also utilized in the contents of this material. However, gaps of verifiable facts have been filled in by either on the record conversations with surviving family members, and / or logical assumptions made in a given situation where no proof was attainable. Therefore, I have grudgingly agreed to a compromise, with the person who edits and manages my writings, to leave out personally identifying, by name, all parties that are involved in this story. It is without argument that I have always been the "black sheep" of the family in which I grew up. In contrast, there was a deep loving relationship between me and my grandparents. For the record, I only recognized my grandparents from my dad’s side of the family. My mother, it was fair to say, despised the closeness between me and my paternal grandparents. This allegation, kept private in my childhood, would prove to be fact in the years to come when I became an adult. As a kid, there was nothing like going to grandma’s house. Grandma made the most delicious meals. She baked homemade bread from scratch. The perfectly grilled meats, with all the veggie toppings, were laced with her sauces that made me salivate just at the thought of them. Grandma would then put a plate full of fried tomatoes in front of me. The aroma of her cooking was just as satisfying as the taste of her foods. Afterwards, Grandma would take me into her living room and pull out modern day recordings for that time. I was certainly, by my mother's rules, not allowed to have this type of music back at our house. Grandma would dance with me. I could see my mother seething as she watched. My mother was a true-to-life crackpot. She was also scary. However, my grandmother was not frightened of her. She put my mom in her place many times. I have no solid proof of this; however, I do have indicators to strongly imply that there was a deep seeded hatred that my mother had for my grandma. This is where I now begin part one of the story.
I had just gotten out of the Marine Corps in July of 1983. My second wife and I, with our newborn son, moved from Hawaii to Las Vegas, Nevada. My wife wanted to be close to her mother, and I did not dispute this since I had neither intention nor desire to return to Baltimore, Maryland. A few months later my mother wanted to see her grandson. I did not deny her right as a grandparent. My mother flew from Baltimore to Las Vegas. Her stay was short. My wife could take no more of my mother’s lies. She blew up in anger against my mother, accusing her of having been an unfit mother. In tears, my mother left back for Baltimore. In 1984, I did become aware that at some time in the recent past, my grandmother had in fact died. I was upset. No one had notified me. But then, several months later I discovered that my brother and his wife had taken over occupancy of my grandmother's house. I was now irate. All I had ever wanted was one heirloom, or a keepsake, or even just anything that was special between me and my grandmother, like the record collection, or some pictures of me and my grandparents together. Those requests fell on deaf ears. My wife and I didn't have much as far as material possessions went, so I told her to pack our bags. We got into our small station wagon and left for Baltimore, Maryland. I couldn't understand how my brother had gotten possession of my grandma’s house. But, I was sure there was some type of shady deal that had taken place. It was common sense that my grandmother had willed her house to my father, and my two uncles. As soon as I drove into Baltimore I headed straight for my grandmother's house. There were no longer any signs that my grandmother had lived in this house for well over the last thirty years of her life. Everything that I recalled her house to have once been had now been dismantled. My brother claimed he was making improvements on the house by installing aluminum siding, building a sun room addition, and finishing off the attic area that was once just used as storage. The house was now, just in shambles. There was little doubt in my mind that upon my grandmother passing on, her aura that presided in this house for many years had quickly been taken out and disposed of. All of her priceless, well-preserved antiques and possessions were gone. When I questioned my brother as to where these possessions were, I was told that he had been forced to change the locks on the house as one of my uncle’s had been coming in and grabbing whatever he wanted for his own use. I straight out asked my brother how he became the occupant of grandma’s house when it was willed to my father, and my two uncles. He replied, "Mom gets a third of the house because dad passed away. I bought out their interests." I then asked, "Where did you get the money to do that? Did you get the money from Mom? Was it the money from Dad's assets and insurance when he passed away? Or, was it from the profits Mom made from selling the house that Dad built? Which one is it, I asked in a forceful manner? Or, is it from both?" I got no reply. No one else in the family was talking either.