My old friend, Russell Huntley Wheat, was 81 and living with diabetes when he passed away shortly before Xmas. Can’t be more precise as his Methodist pastor found his body on a wellness visit the week of the 15th. Apparently there was a memorial service on the 20th but there’s no evidence of it on the Web.
Russ, who lived in Canyon Lake just down the road from the mini-rancho, was the funnyman in Infantry OCS, always telling a joke before class with the permission of the tactical officers who enjoyed them as much as the rest of us. We who strained to hear him in a class of a hundred candidates. Never dirty, just funny.
He was perversely proud of his Purple Heart, for which he had a license plate on his truck, from leg wounds suffered in his days with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Viet Nam. He always sent a Hanukkah card and until recently a funky gift (army teeshirt, etc.) for Mr. Boy whom he had met when Mr. B was still eating in a high chair.
No more separating the Wheat from the chaff was my joke which I promised to tell at the end of our lives. And so it is.
I discovered something while cleaning out a cabinet this morning: A 2005 email from the late Ron Cima about our OCS reunion in San Antonio that year. He attended briefly enroute to somewhere else.
“I was very moved by my short time in San Antonio and very much appreciated having the time to talk with you and Tom [Ringwald, I think it was],” he wrote. “I regret I could not have stayed longer and spent more time with everyone else.”
He also mentioned a tip I gave him in line with his then MIA-hunting job at the Pentagon, on a mass burial of dead VC near my basecamp in 1969 on the southeast side of LZ Baldy, which was southwest of Da Nang. I had a faded old photo of the dead in a pile but not the exact location.
“Your information about a mass burial is something I could potentially share with the Vietnamese,” Ron added. “Although they may not know what to do with it, our relationship with them is reciprocal and we try to give them what we can when we can. If and when you can come up with a more specific location, I’ll look for an opportunity to pass them the information.”
I wrote a short story about the encounter and the mass grave, collected in my book “Leaving The Alamo, Texas Stories After Vietnam,” but never had anything specific to share with Ron so our correspondence ended.
Joe Bol, friend, OCS classmate, rare reader and occasional commenter here, passed on to the next world Wednesday, from complications of multiple medical problems. Adios, Joe, see you again on the turnaround and may our next incarnations not include a thankless political travesty like the Vietnam War.
Via his adopted son Joseph Bol.
UPDATE: Obit for Joe with updated photo. Pity for the misspellings and the usual military ignorance of our non-serving, self-centered fellow citizens. Thus he is credited with a Bronze Medal for Vietnam, as if he had been competing in the Olympics. It’s Bronze Star Medal, of course. Nothing at all about where he went to school or his occupation after the war. I don’t know the former but, IIRC, he was an accountant for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which promotes professional athletics, horse racing, etc.
A bit of Veterans Day insight, just one day late. Sorry about that:
I would not especially care to see the return of the Draft, which caught me just days after my college graduation in 1967 and sent me to war in 1969-70 and home again to job discrimination and psychological abuse.
The draft was inequitable then and likely would be again, but it would spread the burden among more of the educated than volunteering does now, to the detriment of those who do serve and, yes, even those who do not.
“The loss of the martial virtues weakens an entire culture. Whole generations begin to rate themselves too special, ‘with a special kind of hide to be saved,’ as Gen. Savage puts it in Twelve O’Clock High, to risk their careers, let alone their lives, for their country.”
Insight from an academic blogger who burned his draft card back in the day and now regrets his youthful arrogance. At least he’s not a wannabee politician lying about serving when he didn’t. A too-common phenom these days.
Well, I’m now being censored at my OCS alumni group email list by the Brooklyn member who took over management of the Yahoo site after the original, Illinois, organizer had a stroke and heart attack.
Whenever I try to reply to a certain California party with whom I have “had words” in the past, my reply is flagged, held and deleted. It will not see the light of day, the Brooklyn member informs me, and adds that he really does not care what I think. Confine it to the blog, our president-for-life grandly informs me with a wave of his imperial paw. So, here it is.
Gad, it’s cold. Hovering at 30 degrees at the Rancho and headed down to 22 overnight. I know it’s worse in most places north and east of us. Tom Higdon, an OCS buddy in southwestern Missouri, emails that it’s 4 degrees where he is, with minus 6 expected. We’re not used to this kind of weather. At least we can anticipate being done with winter by Valentine’s Day.
Chatter on our OCS email group not so long ago turned to one fellow’s ownership of a forty-nine-year-old Austin-Healey. Reminded me of what I did on our Xmas break in 1967.
After discovering I had been dumped by my college girlfriend for a civilian, I spent the time sleeping in the bath tub of my sister’s one-bedroom D.C. apartment (the couch was occupied) and driving around town with a friend who had a Morgan. The “live axle” one. No springs. Jar your teeth right out of your head. As the experts used to say: you hit the first bump in a Morgan, missed the second one and hit the third one.