Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part I


“Koji, funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore.”

That was Mr. Johnson’s reply while I was driving us to Old Man Jack’s funeral.  I had asked him to help hold me together as I knew I would fall apart.

“Oh-oh,” I thought to myself when I heard that curt reply.  “I guess I hit a nerve…”

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Old man Jack on the left, Mr. Johnson on the right. Taken June 30, 2005.

Mr. Johnson was Old Man Jack’s next door neighbor.

Since 1953.

Nearly SIXTY years.  Hell, I ain’t that old yet.  Well, I’m close.

They got along real well for those 60 years… except Jack was a sailor… and Mr. Johnson was a Marine.  They reminded each other of it often.

Lovingly, of course.

Old Man Jack happily reminisced that “…us white caps would also tussle with them Marines ‘cuz they thought they were better than us”.  But Jack would have gotten the short end of the stick if he took on Mr. Johnson.  He towered over Jack and me…

And Mr. Johnson was a decorated WWII Marine.

Decorated twice…that I know of.

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The neighborhood called him “Johnnie”.  I always addressed him as Mr. Johnson…He used to say, “Damn it, Koji.  I wish you’d stop calling me that.”

I never did call him Johnnie.

But in the end, we found out his real name was Doreston.  Doreston Johnson.

Born August 1, 1923 in Basile, Louisiana.  A tiny town, he said, and everyone was dirt broke.

But I wish I knew why he wanted to go by “Johnnie” but later, I discovered Doreston was his father’s name.

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After Jack passed away, I visited with him.  He opened up a bit.

The Depression made it tough on everybody but then war…

When war broke out, he was gung ho like many young boys at that time.

It was expected.  You were branded a coward if you didn’t enlist or eluded the draft.  You were at the bottom of the heap if you got classified 4F.

He said went to the Army recruiting station.  They said they met their quota, couldn’t take him right away and to try again next week.

He then went to the Navy recruiter.  They also said pretty much the same thing but that there was an outfit “over there that’ll take ya”.

It was the United States Marine Corps.

Notice the 1903 Springfield in this 1942 recruiting poster.

The Marines “took him”…right then and there, he said.

Mr. Johnson said, “I was a dumb, stupid kid at that time”  – slowly shaking his head…but with a boyish little grin.

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It was 1941…  When the United States Navy had their backs against the beaches…  MacArthur blundered after Pearl Harbor and thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner in the Philippines.

The country’s military was poorly equipped and poorly trained.  With outdated equipment like the 1903 Springfield and the Brewster Buffalo.  And most gravely, the US Navy was outgunned.

Mr. Johnson was in for it.

To be continued.

Two Old Men and a Father’s Day Anguish


It was Monday, Valentines’ Day 2001.  My wife was five months pregnant at the time we moved into this wonderful neighborhood smothered in US Naval glory.  After I came back from work the next day, she told me a kind old man stopped her as she was wheeling out the trash bin.  She said he hobbled from across our quiet, peppercorn lined street then kindly wheeled them out for her.

I found out the “old man” was a World War II combat vet.  Worse yet, he was a sailor in the Pacific – he fought the Japanese in World War II.

“Holy crap,” flashed through my mind, “What if he finds out we’re Japanese?”

Twelve years later, I was honored to have been a pallbearer at his funeral.

I was so far off base about my first thoughts on Old Man Jack that even George Burns could have picked me off without being called for a balk…and this while he was in his grave.

I felt so ashamed.

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I snapped this picture of a happy Jack Garrett when we went to the Chino Planes of Fame in 2003.

“Young man, get over here and plant your butt in that chair,” barked old man Jack from his cluttered garage across the street.  Having lived in that house since 1953, it was filled with his life history.

“But I have my stogie going, Jack”, said I.

“Well, I can see it and I sure as hell can smell it.  Now shut up and sit down.  I want to tell you something.”

That was old man Jack, my dear neighbor who lived across the street.  I like to think we were close.

He was 87 years old by that summer’s day in 2010 when he called me over.  While he had become feeble, his barrel chest was still prominent.  He was a rabble-rouser in his youth.  He was always “mixing it up” throughout his young years…  Well, he was mixing it up even while working at Northrup in the 50’s.  That makes me grin.

His handshake was always firm and warm; you didn’t need to be psychic to sense his insight and outlook on life.  He always spoke his mind.  He earned that right having been shot at, strafed, and bombed on “those stinkin’ islands” during a most bitter war.

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Taken on Father’s Day 2010

I had invited Jack to Father’s Day dinner that summer just two years ago; my Dad who was 91 was coming as well.

Jack knew my dad was US Army but I fretted over what they would say to each other when they first met.  Or how they would react to one another.  It was more than just a concern over the centuries old rivalry between Army and Navy.

Dad was in the front room when Jack rang the bell – right on time as always.  Jack had on his favorite blue plaid shirt; he wore it often as it had a pocket for his glasses.  I often wondered how often he washed it, though.  Jack and Dad are shown here on Father’s Day 2010.

“Dad,” I said, “This is Jack, US Navy, Aviation Machinist’s Mate, First Class, the Pacific.”

“Jack, this is my Dad.  US 8th Army, sergeant, Military Intelligence Service.”

Although not as agile as they once were, they immediately saluted each other.

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You didn’t need a sound system to hear them.  Dad and Jack are both hard of hearing.

It was easy to hear Jack ask Dad what he did in the Army.  Dad explained he went into a room once a week and retrieved a crate from a room that reeked of dry cleaning.  (The crates contained documents, photos and other personal items written in Japanese.  They were removed from a WWII battlefield.)  He would then translate them for military intelligence.

I had to tend to cooking so I lost track of the conversation.  It was regretful I didn’t keep tuned in.

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So back to being called over by Jack.  He was sitting in his favorite blue wheelchair.  He didn’t need it but it belonged to his beloved wife Carol who passed away ten years before.  They married in the waning days of the war.  They had been married for 55 strong years.

“So what did you want to tell me, Jack?” I asked.

He then went into his trance – one signaling evident anguish and remembrances.  When he went into these trances, he always started by staring at his hands while picking at his right thumbnail with his left ring finger.  He would lift his once thick eyebrows then begin talking in a slow, deliberate pace, never taking his eyes off his hands.

“I went on ID patrol…” Jack whispered.

“ID patrol?  What is that?” I asked.

“They would issue six of us white caps M1s with bayonets…  Then we’d follow two Marines on a patrol into the jungle.”

“Patrol?  You?  You were ground crew, Jack,” I remarked.

“Ain’t enough of them (Marines) to go around on those stinkin’ islands so we got picked,” he said, still speaking in a lifeless monotone.  He added, “If you got killed, you rotted real quick in that heat.  And if you got killed with shit in your pants, you got buried with shit in your pants.”

His stare doesn’t change.  His eyes have glassed over.  He is in a different world – one that only combat veterans understand.  You and I never will.  Thankfully.

“The Marines had two bags – one small one and a big one.  When we found one, the two Marines would stand guard.  We’d hold the rifle by the butt end and use the fixed bayonet to fish out the tags.”

I then realized what he was painfully regurgitating.  They were going back into the jungle to locate the dead Marines they had to leave behind after a “tussle” with the enemy as Jack liked to say.  Jack was only 20 years old.  The Marines were likely younger.  Ponder that thought.

“We weren’t allowed to touch the (dead Marine) as the Japs would booby-trap ‘em.  We’d hand over the tags hanging on the the end of the bayonet to one of the Marines who would put a tag in the small bag.  They marked a map for the graves registration guys to come back later.”

Jack’s delivery dimmed even further.  “But we’d come across a dead Jap.  Nobody cared about them so they rotted where they were.  But we’d have to stick the bayonet into the rotting goo and try to fish stuff out.  The prize was a pouch or a satchel.  Those would go into the big duffel bag.  We headed back to CP and that’s the last I saw of those bags,” he said.

He abruptly ended but his unconscious stare didn’t change.  He was still picking at his thumbnail all this time.  His head hardly moved while he sat in the blue wheelchair that belonged to his beloved wife.

I thought to myself, “Is that the end, Jack?  That’s it?  Why did you tell me this?”  I knew not to pry any more so I kept the thoughts to myself.  He was in torment already.  Seventy years had passed but he was reliving the awfulness of a brutal war.  Nevertheless, I wondered why he chose that time to tell me about this horrific recall of something he experienced so very young.

It bugged me for several weeks.

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About a month later, I understood why Jack told me the story.  Apparently, the items they recovered from Japanese corpses were dry cleaned to remove the rotting body fluids.  After getting dry cleaned, they ended up in the crates that were in the room my Dad went into once a week when he was in the Military Intelligence Service…and why the room reeked of dry cleaning.

The brief chat with my dad on Father’s Day sparked that memory back to life.  It had been eating at him since that day.  He wanted to get it off his barrel chest.

I lament to this day that a Father’s Day dinner had resulted in an unwanted recall of horror Jack was very much trying to forget.  More so, I lament he relived such horrors each night for the last 70 years of his life.  Seventy years.

Jack was a great man to have endured combat in the Pacific during World War II.  He was an immeasurable giant in learning to forgive – although he was never able to forget.

I miss him greatly.  I thanked him for all we have when I visited him today at his grave on this glorious Memorial Day.

Fresh Tuna and Pyrex Pie Plates


A good number of pies have come out of my oven during the past six months to be taken to parties and such.  Even to a cigar lounge.  Fortunately, there have been no claims of food poisoning – so far.

But I ended up buying a few more Pyrex pie plates (They work great provided you place them on a preheated cookie sheet – helps brown the bottom.).  But what to do with them when pies are on hold?  They just lay in my pots and pan drawers.

Well, my vetunary good friend from the 1980’s, Tom G., had a “fishy” time last weekend.  Tom is an avid fisherman and got shot at in Viet Nam.  He was drafted and did his duty as an American (unlike Clinton).  His dad saw combat as a gunner in a B-24 Liberator during WWII.  His family has indeed served the US of A.

Anyway, Tom went out on a fishing boat and everyone on board hooked tuna like crazy… except for Tom.  Just kidding!  He snagged his limit of five so we were recipients of fresh tuna!

What does fresh tuna have to do with pie plates?

Lots.

As my kids “whine” about eating, i.e., “Pasta again, Papa?”, I decided to try something different – and easy… and hopefully, the kids would eat it.  That’s where the pie plates come in.

I decided to try the “Garlic and Ginger BBQ Tuna”.  Couldn’t go wrong, I thought, as I know the kids’ll eat (almost) anything if it has soy sauce and garlic in it.

The marinade was simple:

  1. 2 tbsp soy sauce (I have a ton of that)
  2. 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar (I have a ton of that, too)
  3. 1 tbsp sesame seed oil
  4. Freshly rated ginger (Use the side of a spoon to scrape off the outside.)
  5. Minced garlic
  6. Chopped green onion
  7. Pepper (I used the Japanese kind)

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Ready to get grilled!

All went into a Pyrex pie plate (which I have a ton of) and the tuna was marinated for about 30 minutes in the fridge (turned after 15 minutes).  Onto a dilapidated Weber BBQ grill over medium heat they went, four minutes each side (I had to slightly over-grill them as my son Jack wouldn’t eat it if he saw just a touch of red). Three minutes may be sufficient, too.

They turned out good!

IMG_3949-001-1So if you have an unused Pyrex pie plate and a great friend like Tom, try it!

buru tunaThanks, Tom!

The Tsunami and the US Marine Corps


There is something enchanting about the Corps.  The United States Marine Corps.

It’s the only branch of service where the first letter is capitalized.

Marine.

Yes, we owe our current freedoms to ALL of our branches of service, especially during WWII (It seems, however, that our current leadership do not value that.).  Don’t get me wrong.  Many of you had fathers or grandfathers fight in the Army, Navy, USAAF during WWII.  I just place the US Marine Corps at the top of my own personal list…  I am but a citizen and like Obama and Clinton, I have never served although I got close in 1973…but I sure the hell didn’t flee the draft like a former President we know.¹

Yet, why does our media castrate or belittle them so much?  I just do not understand.

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Okinowa

Definitely not Iwo Jima, Saipan or Guadalcanal but perhaps Okinawa.  These Japanese children are wearing Marine helmets given to them for protection; you can see the Marines in combat behind them.

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US Marines on Saipan.

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US Marines rendering aid to a Japanese child.

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US Marines rendering aid to a Japanese child.

Old Man Jack endured combat in the SW Pacific during WWII as a sailor.  Put it this way: for whatever reason, he volunteered for duty in 1942, soon after Pearl.  One very piercing and ugly flashback he would endure while describing what truly went on in war was, “If you got killed with shit in your pants, you got buried with shit in your pants.”

I think of all the boys and young men who were killed on those “stinkin’ islands” as Old Man Jack called them.  One step to the left or just taking that step one second earlier or later meant instant death.  And on Iwo Jima, there was no “front line”.  The enemy hid in caves or were secreted away by camouflage or were in well hidden concrete fortifications that they had years to build.  They would pop out of a tunnel that the Marines just “cleared”.  Death came from all directions. Same at Pelileu. At Guadalcanal.  At Saipan.  Many other small islands.

Yet, they fought – and died for their buddies – to be buried with soiled dungarees in that black talcum-powder like sand like Old Man Jack horribly recollected. Or in an unmarked grave deep in a jungle on Guadalcanal, forever lost.

But why does the media today showcase to no end an instance when front line Marines urinate on dead Taliban?  Because it isn’t PC? Or because its a paycheck?  And the injustice – yes, injustice – served upon the Marines by the media during Viet Nam?  I, for one, thank each and every one of the military who were in Viet Nam.

But most importantly, why DOESN’T the media showcase all of the other gazillion humanitarian acts performed by the Marines?

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At least the Japanese media appreciated the US Marines

Well, since in my  opinion CNN and other outlets have their own agenda, I will write about just one of their HUGE humanitarian efforts here.  In my tiny corner of this blogging universe.

Because the media won’t and I think that sucks.

When the devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011, who were the first ones to render aid to the pockets of isolated Japanese civilians?

It was the United States Marine Corps.  In the typical and expected norm for Marines, they were the first ones there…  even before Japan’s own relief efforts reached them.

Did you know that?  They got to many of the isolated survivors before their own government did.

(Note: some of the footage immediately above will be of the USN)

And one thing you will also notice about these desperate Japanese people in the footage.

There was no rioting.  No looting.  No screams about, “You need to bring us more.  We are entitled to it,” when the desperately needed supplies were unexpectedly choppered in.

The exact opposite.  The shocked, hungry and cold Japanese formed chains to help unload the desperately needed water, food, clothing, medicine and kerosene… then distributed them amongst themselves in an orderly fashion.

It was all for one… and the Japanese appreciated the Marines.

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But how much footage of the Marines’ relief efforts did you see on TV back then?  Very little, I think.

Excuse me.  Anderson Cooper was there on a Japanese street corner in the evening, broadcasting for CNN.  But he didn’t report about our military helping tremendously in their relief efforts.

He was stirring up the media pot.  He was accusing alluding to the Japanese government hiding the truth about the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.

Right there on a Japanese street corner.

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Old Man Jack fondly recollected fighting with the Marines back then because “they thought they were better than us white caps”.  But he followed that up real quick by saying there was no one better than the Marines to protect his sorry ass when it came time.

Well, if we are stranded somewhere like the tsunami victims, I’m sure the Marines will be coming.

They’ll even help Anderson Cooper…reluctantly.

 

Footnote:

1  You can decide for yourself about Clinton and the draft.  You cannot argue you didn’t agree with the war.  It was a duty, plain and simple.  Senator Fulbright pressured the officer in charge of the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas to accept Clinton.  By doing so, Clinton’s induction would be delayed.  Instead, he fled to England to further his studies at Oxford.  Google “Clinton letter to Col. Holmes”.

Muddled Mind


Good blogger geeez2014 wondered in a comment kiddingly if I had stopped blogging.

Well, no, I haven’t.

But my mind is just discombobulated. It is muddled with all the ugly stuff that’s been going on in the world. It is falling apart. Our leaders have failed the world with the result being the everyday people they are supposedly protecting are the ones being killed. NOT themselves.

I don’t care if its a religious leader of any belief or a leader of a country. THEY are the ones ordering the killings when they make decisions…or shy away from making them.

But most of all, I feel our country is but a wooden ship on the high seas besieged by a mutiny while fires are burning below deck. Grave fires.

But rather than trying to express myself with words, I shall defer to cartoons. They reflect my muddled psyche.  They may not parallel yours but these reflect my confused thoughts:

ATT00028Entitlements-Vs-MilitaryStill-Held-590-LIStantis-immigration-2Executive-order-reshapes-Mt.-Rushmore-Michael-RamirezObama-s-Egyptian-gun-controlobama forward with soldiermichael-ramirez-obama-as-statue-of-liberty-amnestyimages (6)022614Washingtons-Fault-590-liATT00058Race Card 2Lastly, a photograph of a BOY at the D-Day Commemoration holding our flag. He stood saluting the incoming waves at Omaha Beach for 90 minutes.

The 70th Anniversary Of The D-Day Landings Are Commemorated In NormandyA peek into my muddled mind.

National Betrayal is Treason


Mustang.Koji:

This will NOT make your day, my fellow Americans. We have enough problems with fatherless kids now. Think. Not all of these illegals will become taxpaying model inhabitants. They broke the law just coming here. OMG

Originally posted on A Montpelier View:

We are learning bits and pieces about the sudden surge of adolescents rushing to the United States’ southern border and turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents. The story seems muddled, however. The White House would like us to believe that this surge was completely unexpected and most Americans accept this explanation. I think the high acceptance level has more to do with the way the news media ignores any serious investigative journalism, favoring White House press releases as their main source of information. Nevertheless, there is far more to this story than the White House version.

Let me begin with this story, first published in July 2012: USDA PARTNERING WITH MEXICO TO BOOST FOOD STAMP PARTICIPATION [1] . The article begins, “The Mexican government has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.” Yes, that’s…

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She’s Killing Me


She’s killing me, I tell ya.

My little Cake Boss.

She has dance every day except Friday and Sunday. Today’s starts at 4:30 and ends at 8:30 pm.

So from 1:00 today, I tell to have everything together. To remember to take what she needs. I remind her at around 3:00 and she gets mad at me. “I know, Papa! Geez!”

I drop her off then go see an old buddy of mine for a congratulatory smoke since I became a grandpa.

Guess what?

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She forgets her leotard.

She’s killing me, I tell ya.

Happiness is Summer Green Peas


Mustang.Koji:

Compassionately reminiscing at its finest…

Originally posted on madlyinlovewithlife:

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Farmers Market Green Peas, photograph by madlyinlovewithlife

Fresh Green Pea Season

It’s Pea Season! And we’ve been hauling huge bags of them home from the farmers market every week. My favourite way to enjoy summer peas is to simply fill a large bowl with fresh, cold, crunchy pea pods, shell one, pop the succulent little morsels straight into my mouth, savour them thoroughly, and gluttonously carry on until the whole bowl is empty. Mmmmm… they are such a delicious summer treat.

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