It's been quite the last month, with three deaths that touched upon me one way or another.
“Johnny” Lusby was the father of one of my fellow Boy Scout leaders. Johnny was an infantryman in the 45th Infantry Division (Thunderbirds) and participated in the amphibious assault of Sicily. Some time thereafter he was captured and served time as a prisoner of war in Germany. The historical material his son had on view at the funeral home was incredible. It included all of his awards (Combat Infantryman, Bronze Star, POW Ribbon, etc.) and even the telegrams sent to Johnny's wife when he was tallied as missing and then confirmed by the Germans as a POW. It leant great weight to the deeds of the man.
Then our neighbor passed away. “Jack” Wallace was a kind, soft-spoken man who always had time to help out with anything. He, too, served in the Second World War, aboard a destroyer escort. By his own admission he never saw actual combat, but he remembered riding out a hurricane that made him think combat might be an option. Jack flew an American flag at his house every single day for the 15 or so years that I knew him. It was up every day at dawn and down every evening at dusk. His military service may have been brief and undramatic, but he was proud of the fact that he served and loved his country.
And now “Jimmy” Dean has passed. Jimmy became a member of the nascent Army Special Forces way back in 1954. He participated in a lot of hairy stuff, including operations in Laos in 1962. After retiring from the Army in 1966 he became instrumental in what eventually became the Special Forces Association, a fraternal organization for those who have served or supported Army Special Forces. And believe me, the bond is strong. After serving his country for nearly 30 years, always at the tip of the spear, Jimmy went on to continue to support his bretheren in the Special Forces Association for the better part of another 30 years. You may have seen him when he appeared on CNN to refute the utterly bogus “Operation Tailwind” accusations.
The Special Forces Association has three levels of membership: Associate (Those who aren't actually Special Forces, but who have supported it in some noteable way), Member (anyone who was ever officially SF qualified) and Decaders (those who have spent at least ten years in Special Forces). I'm a decade member, and my number is close to 5000. Jimmy's number was 30. He was one of the first 30 guys to spend ten years in an SF unit. He did wild and crazy things in an era when you had to be wild and crazy to do them.