220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company
Second Quarterly 2008 CATCOM E-Newsletter
updated June 25, 2008
A Letter from Joe Hodges
and all Friends
and Brothers in Arms,
in memory of those who have served
There is a web site available to share with you a song of thanks to our aging veteran population, especially those who served in World War II. If you know one, please send this link along to him/her, or to their family members:
The Web Site Tribute Page
Go directly to the song: Before You Go
DON'T FORGET TO ORDER YOUR HISTORICAL DVD FROM THE CATKILLER NEWSLETTER SITE:
For details, see the first quarterly newsletter for 2008. This DVD will make a nice gift to your children and grandchildren. Make all the copies you want.
The following message came from Catkiller Eric Teets, through Jim and Jo Wisby:"Jo Anne, I am writing to you so you could tell your husband Jim that I served under his command from July 1968 till January 1969, when I was transfered to the 245th in Da Nang. Till this day I don't know why I was transfered, probably my services were needed elsewhere.
I was in was the 231st Signal Detachment, which was attached to the 220th. No recognition on the 220th Catkiller web page, which astounds me.
Jim was a Commander with such integrity that his personality has stayed with me all of these years. My name is Eric [Teets]"
If you remember Eric, his email address is: email@example.com
Welcome, 231st Signal Detachment
Charles Dudek, Catkiller 32, checked in last year, but I just noticed his email address change:Monday 08/27/2007 9:37:20am
Name: Charles Dudek
Location: Eaton Rapids, MI
Comments: I would like to say HI to all of you Catkillers out there. I have enjoyed reading the information and seeing the pictures from the Catkiller web site. Great Job. I have a new email address as listed in this entry. Please keep me up to date on the latest news and information. Please add me to the roster of personnel as Catkiller 32 from 1969 to 1970. Everybody hang in there.
Joe Peters, Catkiller 15, checked in about the same time as Charles Dudek. It is good hearing from you, Joe:
Name: Joe Peters
Location: Hayes, VA
Comments: I was stationed at Quang Nhagi for three months starting in May of '67. At the time I was a Captain and had the call sign of Catkiller 15. I was caught up in a DROS shuffle in August and reassigned to the 183rd RAC, 3rd Platoon at Nha Trang. My platoon leader at the time was Aubrey Lockett. The only other member that I remember was Cal Boyles, who was also a flight school buddy.
Glenn Stewart, Catkiller 45, of Mountain View, CA, has a new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Catkiller Guy M. Trettel, of Natrona Heights, Penn., checked in and left this message:Hi! I found a Catkiller web site about two weeks ago and I've been trying to get some information ever since. I served in Viet Nam with the 220th from 3/67 thru 10/68 as a SP4/SP5 crewchief, serving on the Phu Bai (flight-line), then in Quang Ngai, then back to Phu Bai with the Dong Ha platoon. I would like to know who manages the Personnel List so I can add my information . I also would like information about old friends like: Michael Brown of Phoenix, Ed Arthur of California, Harry Hall of Ohio, Ed Caton or Cayton, Captain Keltner, (pilot) Shields, Lt. Pepe, (pilot Sharkey), just to name a few. Please contact me with any information. Thanks! Sincerely, Guy M. Trettel, 1623 Third Street, Natrona Heights, PA 15065-1337. My cell-phone is: 724-681-4833. My email address: email@example.com
VETERANS VIETNAM RESOTORATION PROJECT (VVRP):
The following link will direct you to the internet site of VVRP. Look for an announcement of an initiative for this group coming soon:
Please keep in mind this web site can be a major focal point in mass communications. Every once in a while, and when you change email addresses, please email me so I can keep my address database up to date. My email address is always at the bottom of this page and current. You can also send your updates to the official Keeper-of-the -List, Bob McComiskie (firstname.lastname@example.org ). Pass the word, please.
The main site file for viewing past and present Catkiller newsletters is the following link: www.catkillers.orgnewsletters.htm
The latest newsletter is the last one listed on that page: www.catkillers.orgcatcom2-quarter08.htm
When you communicate with one another, you could also add (to keep others informed) the newsletter site at the bottom of your salutation, such as:
Donald M. Ricks
Catkiller Newsletters: http://http://www.catkillers.org
JUSTICE FROM ABOVE:
If you have wondered how effective our FACs are in the Middle East, take a look at this demonstrative video. Warning: this is graphic (but only a game):
HONOR OUR PATRIOTS:
This is a powerful letter written by a man with a patriotic heart and love for his country. Thanks to Raymond Caryl for sending and sharing this friend's father's essay in hope and love for our way of life:
"This is a well-said venting from my nephew, Ken, who is going through what any father of a 17-year-old about to go in to combat must feel, "FRUSTRATION," at what lays ahead with our leadership pool. Keep good thoughts, folks, and get involved even if it's by emailing to others, as this will be the most important November of our lives. Ben"
'When I got home last night I turned on the TV. Sick of seeing the news, I flipped to the movies. The Patriot was on. As I watched the familiar story unfold, I thought about the irony of seeing these brave men making bold decisions in front of me on the night before the California primary. I asked myself where those brave men are today and who will pick up the flag and scream "no retreat, charge forward". What have we become as a people that we can't produce men like that today? About that time, Kyle called to tell me he is leaving on a 20 day training op today. We talked about father/son things and love for god, country and family. He followed by telling me about the proper way to dress battle wounds and insert an IV. He went on to tell me all about how to use a shotgun to blow door locks during a tactical breech. I thought about how sad it is that these are the types of things our children are dealing with while the self serving "guardians of virtue" in Washington are taking care of the really tough issues that we face, like did Roger Clemons use steroids or not? All that is to say that we have a pretty shallow talent pool to pick from, so I will go to the polls today and vote for the guy that offends me the least. We may have to hold our breath through a few administrations until the generation that understands what sacrifice and real public service is comes of age. I hope I'm wrong. Would we choose our leaders more carefully if all elections were held on April 15th? Anyway, tell everyone you know that it is their responsibility to get out and vote. It is a right that was paid for by the blood of warriors.
ERIC TEETS' PHOTOS:
Our 231st Signal Detachment member, Eric Teets, sent in these photos:
REMEMBER THE VNAF?
Curt Perry, Catkiller 22, sent this old photo taken a Hue:
REYNOLDS PLANTATION MEMBER GUEST GOLF TOURNAMENT:
These two fliers don't seem to age, and they keep busy with important stuff (note the smiling-golfer look). Nancy, you make taking-care-of-your-old-soldier look easy. Roll your mouse over the photos for identies:
CATKILLERS AT A JEEP RALLY:
Here's a pic of Daryl Wesley, Catkiller 36, and myself at a military vehicle rally in Opp, Ala. last month. I was going thru my old orders and noticed you are on my copy of the army commendation award orders.
Curt Perry (Catkiller 22)
[I responded to Curt's email by writing: I'd like to have others participate more (with variety) sending photos or updates about our old soldiers. Your input is appreciated for that reason alone. Plus, I really enjoy seeing our guys in fellowship, like you and Daryl. I went through some of my Vietnam orders, too, and located a few with 220th personnel, including my flight records that shows [my] check-out for 4th platoon by Jack Bentley, Catkiller 16.
Other photos from Curt Perry, from Birddogs over Catkiller territory:
Other photos from Curt Perry, from Birddogs over Catkiller territory:
SWAMP FOX WEB SITE:
Ray "Doc" Jennings, WebMaster/Commo Chief, at www.SwampFox199thRAC.com, has a new email address: email@example.com. To visit their informative site, click on the link below:
VETERANS, ROTARIANS FLY TO VIETNAM WITH DONATIONS
This is a good preview of the type of project we Catkillers could mount next year, thanks to the efforts of Catkiller Bud Bruton and the organization to which he belongs (Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project, see link above). When I think of all the adventures in which I could be involved, this one impresses me as useful and meaningful. As I consider the words one gentleman used in the article, "Each time we go back, we do something more than we had planned," I can only imagine the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment these men gain from their experiences. Below is a great, encouraging testimony, and when we start making the list for next year my name will be there at the top. I plan to go.
Look for more specific briefing and planning information coming soon!
Donald M. Ricks
Catkiller 49By Nicole Neroulias
The Journal News " October 31, 2007
SPRING VALLEY - Half their suitcases contain light clothes, sunscreen and other basic necessities for an autumn trip to Vietnam. The other half threaten to burst open, tightly packed with toys, toiletries and medical supplies for the hundreds of orphans, students and patients they will encounter on the three-week journey.
Sponsored by the Spring Valley Rotary Club, 29 travelers - including 13 Vietnam War veterans - took flight last night, carrying more than 1,000 pounds of donated goods among them. As they travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), they will dedicate two schools, fund a clean-water project and distribute 20 wheelchairs, 100 backpacks and 29 bicycles to impoverished children.
"What started out as a small project has expanded," said Ed Frank, 58, of Congers, a Navy veteran who first returned to Vietnam in 2005, then helped lead the club's inaugural humanitarian trip there last year. "Each time we go back, we do something more than we had planned."
Frank, who is also president of the Vietnam Veterans of America's Chapter 333 of Rockland County, said this year's Rotary-sponsored group includes veterans, medical professionals, family members and educators - about a third from the Lower Hudson Valley, the others from across the country.
They raised more than $48,000 for the trip, including a $1,900 contribution from North Rockland High School.
Other helpful donations included toothbrushes and toothpaste from local dentists, miniature shampoos and soaps from hotels, and enough brain shunts to save the lives of 30 children afflicted with hydrocephalus, a neurological disease linked to Agent Orange.
Frank's wife, Debby Roland-Frank, 56, who has joined the group this year, amassed an impressive pile of gently used Beanie Babies, which her husband confirmed were a huge hit at Vietnamese orphanages last year.
"I've been collecting these from garage sales," she said, squeezing the plush animals on top of the multivitamin bags. "I had to retire to do this trip!"
Five of the veterans in the group have not been back to Vietnam in four decades, when their military tours ended. Among them is Army veteran Jeffrey Keahon, 63, of Pearl River, who was stationed near the South China Sea from July 1968 to September 1969.
But Keahon, who will assume a Rotary Club's district governorship next year, said he viewed the trip as a global Rotary opportunity, rather than a bittersweet visit to his old battlefield. He recently returned from a philanthropic mission to Honduras and plans to go to El Salvador next year.
Ideally, Keahon said, he can help start a Rotary branch in Vietnam, which would make future donations eligible for matching funds from Rotary International and local Rotary districts.
"I think it's perhaps a better mission I'm on this time," he said. "It balances out that 40 years ago, the mission was the two nations - North Vietnam and the United States - were at war. Now that's over and what I'm really hoping to do is lay some groundwork for getting a Rotary Club in Vietnam."
The Spring Valley Rotary Club's president, Orville McLaughlin, said he fully supported Keahon's long-term plan, but for now he was most excited about hearing from the travelers about the school dedications and orphanage visits when they return Nov. 18.
"I wish I could go with them," the 40-year-old Newburgh man said, with a sigh. "It's really coming from their hearts. And for all the schoolchildren and the orphans, this is just a token from us to them."
Reach Nicole Neroulias at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-694-3527.
OLD CATKILLER PLAQUE
CatkillerMech Stephen Badger sent two old photos, with a promise of others taken back in the 1968 era. Thanks for the input and history, Stephen:Here is a plaque made at Phu Bai in the shops for me just before I left for home in 68. I don't remember who made it; the names were never put on.
The air filter cover and end of prop from my plane 791, after it crashed at the artillary end (western) of the runway at Dong Ha.
I will find what I have for pictures and scan what I can. Also I don't know if it may be of interest there is a website for the 219 RAC from Camp Hollaway in Pleiku from where many of the original Dong Ha platoon came from:
LAST FLIGHT: 0-1 OVER FORT RUCKER:
Curt Perry, Catkiller 22, sent the following message and photo:"Don, this is a picture of the last flight class in O-1s doing their fly-by at the flag pole at Ft. Rucker. I took quite a few pictures of the fly-by and ended up giving them to a gal who worked for Avaition Digest magazine, and she sandwiched two slides together to make this pic. This one or one similar appeared on the cover of the magazine featuring the last flight. Brennan is probably the pilot slightly out of formation.... :<)
CATKILLERS RETURN TO VIETNAM - AS TOURISTS:
Bud Bruton has already devoted considerable time and resources in gathering information and making tentative plans for this trip. He needs from us a count that would encourage him to begin earnestly making detailed plans to get us lined up for the trip. Please send Bud or me your email regarding your desires and interest in making this trip. Without your support and participation such a memorable trip will not be possible. Since we all would be concerned about security and safety, please know that Bud has been there. Any question you might have will be answered by the expert in travel to that country: Catkiller Bud Bruton (email@example.com). On the in-country end, we have a former Marine Catkiller backseater and a Marine to act as our guides. I plan to go!
New Mission for All Catkillers and Back-Seaters (GIB)
Mini-Reunion in I Corp Vietnam - Late Spring 2009
"Gather your bags, and bring the wife, kids and grandchildren: the Catkillers are going back to Vietnam!
We are planning a trip back to Vietnam, in late spring of 2009. Our plans are to go back as a unit of the 220th Catkillers, with invitations extended to Army and Marine Back Seaters and any other individuals that worked with the Catkillers. We plan to focus on I Corp, from Quang Nhagi to Dong Ha and North of the Ben Hai. On this trip, our mission objective will be to Recon the Catkiller AO in I Corp.
We will be leaving from LA in late March or early April, fly on Korean Air - thru Seoul - on to Hanoi, and spend a day or two in Hanoi (to get acclimated to the time zone changes). While acclimating and putting to rest our apprehension about that city, we can visit the tomb of Uncle Ho and walk the chambers of the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Or, we just walk the city streets, especially the Old Quarter of Hanoi. The shopping is great, and the people are welcoming.
Then, we will fly on Vietnam Air to Danang. It's not the Vietnam Air we remember, but a modern well-run airline. Basing out of the ancient seaport town of Hoi An, we can arrange visits to Marble Mountain, Quang Nhagi, and Danang. After a few days in Hoi An, we will work are our way north to Hue/Phu Bai. Hue is an easygoing, peaceful city (with tree lined boulevards), a certain refinement, and great restaurants.
We will then proceed to Dong Ha. Can you believe Dong Ha even has a hotel? Some may want to establish a base out of Dong Ha, and others may want to stay in Hue. We will work this out before we visit Fire Support bases along the DMZ and continue out to Camp Carol and the Rock Pile. Time permitting, and with interest from our group, we could travel further out west to Khe Sanh and the Laotian Border. We will also cross Freedom Bridge into North Vietnam, visit the Vinh Muc tunnels, and spend an afternoon on a beach - just north of the Bien Hai River.
We plan to fly out of Hue/Phu Bai to Saigon and depart for the States, after a short time in that city. You may wish to extend and do your own private trip, and that opportunity will be made available to all.
While the Catkillers were in Vietnam, we supported an orphanage. Some of us may want to pick up where we left off by visiting a Training Center being built to help the children of Northern I Corp train to work in occupations other than agriculture. This will also help them resist searching for scrap metal left over from the war. Last year more than forty people were injured in Quang Tri province from unexpended ordnance. The average annual income is less than $500 annually. The area in which we plan to visit is one of the poorest areas of Vietnam, and the major industry next to agriculture is hunting for scrap medal from unexpended ordnance left over from the war.
From South to North, I think this itinerary will cover most all of the AO assigned to Catkiller platoons from 1965 to 1972.
At this point, the trip is tentative and the itinerary is open to modification, depending on the makeup of the group that actually goes. The cost of the trip is also variable, depending on interest. The more that go the lower the price will be for the trip. We believe we can do the two-plus weeks in the range of $ 3700 per person, complete. That cost will cover tickets, room and board, and all in-country transportation with guides. Point of interest is that the guides we have lined up are two Marines, Robert E. Laramy and Chuck Meadows. Bob flew with the Catkillers in 1968, and Chuck's mission was to lead his Company to retake the Citadel, after Tet of 68.
Don Ricks and I will be available to field any questions, and we look forward to seeing you on the West Coast - to go back, again, this time with a different mission. If you go back, you will return a different person. I found that for me it was all positive, with nothing but great relief to see a Vietnam that was vibrant and growing - and still one of the most beautiful places on earth.
COMMENT ABOUT OUR PLANNED VIETNAM TRIP:********************************************
As you may know, my wife and I went back last year for a couple of months. My classmate, Bud, said it best - "it was all positive, with nothing but great relief to see a Vietnam that was vibrant and growing...and still one of the most beautiful places on earth."
While we won't return with the group next year, we are happy to help persuade, help, support any all efforts to get Catkillers and all GIs and their families that enjoy travel - to go back. If any of our recent knowledge, contacts, lessons learned will assist, please allow us to do so.
Rod and Jean Stewart
Mr. and Mrs. Catkiller 13
PS: The blog on our 2007 Vietnam trip is still up at:
Click here for Rod Stewart's Blog Site: http://rodstewartsdispatches.blogspot.com/2007/06/vietnam-cambodia-2007.html
[To contact Rod with questions, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Phil Lowentrit sent me the info about the trip back to RVN in 2009. Phil and I were classmates, and I flew with the 203RD RAC out of LZ English. I have been going back to RVN every year since 1998. If I can help you all out, please let me know.
Carrol A. (Corky) Smith
National Transportation Safety Board
Senior Air Safety Investigator
JOE HODGES: FACING FEAR, VIETNAM AND BRAIN CANCER
Wow! What a testimony of a meaningful life and of courage. Joe Hodges sent this in yesterday. As I contempleted his mind-set as he wrote this letter, I came to admire him for merely putting it down on paper, and much more for sending it to me and writing, "...feel free to share with anyone ...." Joe, I do admire your courage, attitude, and love of family. I am certain all who read this will share my feelings, as you so gracefully shared your story. Speaking for your fraternal brothers, the Catkillers and Friends, I add that we not only wish you well, but also send a hug in the same spirit as did your friend, Miller Griffin. God be with you and your family. Don Ricks"Don,*********************
My name is Joe Hodges, and I was in DaNang June '66 to June '67. Please add my name to your email list and to the Quarterly CATCOM newsletter mailing list. My call sign was "Catkiller Zulu." I had brain cancer surgery in early April of this year, and I have written a short story concerning how Vietnam helped get me ready for this problem. I put the story in this email. Feel free to share it with anyone if you like it.
Home: 807 19th Ave N, Columbus, MS 39701
Facing Fear, Vietnam and Brain Cancer
By Joe Hodges
"In June of 1966, I was on a plane headed for Vietnam. We that had just left Clark Air Force Base in the Philippine Islands, and up to that point the conversation by almost everyone had been easy and sometimes loud. However, when the pilot said our next stop was Saigon, South Vietnam, everything went quiet. I sat there thinking about the last few days before I took this flight. I had said goodbye to my sister, Linda, my mother, and my father in Verona, Mississippi. Linda and Mother cried. To see Mother crying was out of the ordinary. I had never known her to cry about anything, except the loss of my older sister and the death of her brother, Carl, in World War II. She simply would never say much about those two things. Daddy gave me a hug and said be careful. My wife, Barbara, and I left for North Carrollton where she would stay while I was gone. She was expecting our first child, and her mother was there to help. Leaving her was very difficult, far beyond what I can put into words. After I spent a few days with Barbara, her Uncle Elmer took me to the Greenwood Airport to start this journey. It was tough for me to leave them, but I now know that it was much tougher for them to see me leave. I realized that I was headed into a war, but I didn't know exactly where in Vietnam I was going or what I would be doing.
After reaching Saigon I was processed into the country. On the second day I ran into the young man that had sat by me on the plane. I asked him what he had been doing, and he told me that they had almost taken him off the plane and put him on guard duty. I asked him if he had seen any VC. He said no but that he had shot at anything that made a noise. Later, I ran into a fellow flight school class member named Palmer Haines. Palmer was one of those young men that every man wanted as a friend, and almost every woman wanted. He was a good looking young man with a great personality, and he was just plain fun to be around. The next day Palmer and I headed north. When we reached NhaTrang we were picked up at the airport by a young soldier driving a three-quarter-ton truck with an open bed. He told us that it was too bad that we didn't have rifles and bullet proof vests, because vehicles on the road we were going to take were almost always under constant attack. Palmer and I got our knives out and sat ready to repel any attackers that reached the truck. I later realized that the driver did not have a rifle and a bullet proof vest, so he must have really enjoyed the show that Palmer and I put on with our knives. My knife was not even sharp at that time.
From Nha Trang we went on to Da Nang. There we saw Ray Alexander, a fellow flight class member, and I ran into Major Richardson who had been one of my ROTC instructors at Mississippi State. We said, "Go Dawgs!"and had a good conversation about MSU.
After one night in Da Nang we moved on to Hue Phu Bai, where the headquarters of the 220th Aviation Company was located. The 220th was a small fixed wing airplane company. We flew planes that we called Birddogs, L-19s or O-1s and our nickname was Catkillers. Where that nickname came from is a mystery to me. On the first day there Palmer and I went in to visit with Major Smalley, the company commander. He first told Palmer that his entire West Point class had just been promoted to Captain. He seemed a little upset that they had been promoted so soon. Palmer did not care how Major Smalley felt about the promotions, he was happy about it. He then turned to me and said, You have friends in high places. Major Richardson had called and asked that I be sent back to Da Nang. I was surprised. Major Smalley began to tell us what our mission was. We would fly in support of the Marines, Special Forces, Navy Swift boat bases, South Vietnam troops, and any other group that needed our help. As he was talking I looked over his shoulder and saw that a small lizard that had bitten into a large moth. The moth was still alive and trying to fly away. The small lizard was hanging by his toenails to the screen wire. Neither the lizard nor the moth seemed to be able to win this battle. A philosophical question came to me. Which one am I? The lizard or the moth? I don't remember much Major Smalley said after that question popped into my mind. It is a question that I still have not answered.
Back to Da Nang I went. In Da Nang, the Catkillers first stayed in an old hotel in the city. This hotel was not like the Holiday Inn. The water was brown, and the rooms were not air conditioned. In fact, the ceiling fan in my room moved so slowly that I could put my head in and out the blades as it turned. My first roommate was our platoon leader, Captain Ben Hartman. He was good soldier and a good man. Very early he proclaimed to me that he was the undefeated Jackschampion of Vietnam. At first, I didn't understand that claim, but later I understood and proclaimed myself to be the undefeated Dartschampion of Vietnam. There are times in life when you need to the best at something! For the first few days Ben gave me easy flights, just up and down the coast. Since our little airport, known as Marble Mountain Airfield, sat on the beach there was little chance that I would get lost or hurt. Then the real war started for me, as I began to fly into much more dangerous areas. On one flight I saw a Vietnamese man walk from the mountain jungle into an open field, and I thought, "I am the 1960 Tupelo High School's Friendliest Boy, so I'll drop down low and wave at this man." As I got very close I saw him point a rifle at me and fire. I am not sure what I had expected, but this almost put me in shock. Over the next couple of weeks I became very aware that I might not live though the war. Fear of dying took control of my mind; I was more concerned about living than I was about anything else. I could not do my job in the way that I should. Then one day I had a long talk with myself. After much thought I realized that I could not let fear rule my mind. I had to be smart enough to not let fear drive me crazy. I did want to live and go home, but I did not want to go home with my mind twisted beyond repair. There were many times afterwards when I was scared, but that fear did not rule my thoughts. After that decision, I did my job in a way that let me establish a combat record that I have been quietly proud of in the years that have followed.
Forty two years later, in January of 2008, I begin to have trouble remembering things. At first I thought I was just getting old. As the memory loss increased, I became more worried about it. In March my loss of memory became really bad. Bad to the point that I was convinced I was in the early stages of Alzheimers. After an examination, Dr. Mike Duckworth told me that I did not have Alzheimers, and he would find out what my problem was. That made me very happy. He arranged for me to have an MRI. I completed that on a Thursday, and he called on Friday. He said that Barbara and I needed to come to his office that day. In his office he explained to us that I had a brain tumor, and the placement and the size of the tumor would require that it be removed. That day at our request he helped us arrange a visit at UAB in Birmingham, on the coming Tuesday. On Tuesday, after some additional tests, the surgeon explained that he would perform the surgery on Wednesday. I was still not very scared, and I told him that he could do it that afternoon if he wanted to. After the surgery on Wednesday, and time in the Neurology IUC, I spent an additional day in the hospital and then was released. I had an appointment back with the surgeon in a few days.
When Barbara and I went back the kind and soft spoken surgeon said, "You have a very aggressive kind of cancer called Glioblastoma, and we could not remove it all."That statement killed all my positive thoughts. This was not what I expected. I thought that they would remove the tumor, and after a short period of time I would be back doing what I had been doing since I retired: Drinking coffee at the Holiday Inn almost every day with a bunch of my buddies, doing volunteer for the MSU Bulldog Club, fishing when I wanted to at Lake Norris or on the river, deer hunting a bunch, going to every MSU sporting event, and most importantly visiting with my children and grandchildren. Now I thought this will not happen. I did not hear or understand anything else that the doctors had to say that day. It is a good thing that Barbara was with me. I'm sure that she was every bit a shocked as I was, but on that day she was much stronger than I was and listened well to what they had planned for me. After one more night with our son Paul and his wife Cyndi in Birmingham, Barbara and I headed home to Columbus. I could hardly talk or think.
After a couple of days in Columbus my friend and fellow State Farmer, Miller Griffin, came to see me. Just a few short years ago Miller went though more major health problems in a short time than most people have in a lifetime, so when he talks about how to deal with health problems I listen. We first talked about our grandchildren, then MSU sports, followed by State Farm stuff. As he was about to leave he slid forward in his chair and said, I have watched you deal with a lot of problems in your life. You have always done the right thing and survived. You will do the right thing with this cancer and survive. As he left he gave me a big hug.
After Miller left, I thought about what he said. His words took me back to a time in my life when Miller and I did not know each other. His words reminded me of my Vietnam decision: not to let fear drive me crazy. Major Smalley and Ben Hartman were killed in their second Vietnam tours, and three of my fellow Catkillersdied during my tour; and so my fear of dying was legitimate, but I did not let it rule my thoughts. That fear of dying in those days was much like my fear of dying from brain cancer. On the day that Miller visited I decided to make that decision again. That does not mean that I won't have any fear of what may happen to me because of this cancer, but I will not let that fear rule my life. We will all die of something so each of us needs to enjoy today. I am quietly proud of my Vietnam record, and I hope that when my time to go comes, next year or twenty years from now or even another forty two from now, that my family and friends will be quietly proud of the way I handled this problem in my life. "