31 October 2003
I thought it might be fun to post some of my retirement photos.
This is what I was doing sixteen years ago today!
By Heath Hardage Lee
I discovered this book and its author through Twitter. Although not a memoir, I could see right away that this was an incredible story of women who took on the U.S. government to get their POW/MIA husbands home from Vietnam. After reading about the book on Ms. Lee’s website and learned about her touring the country and military bases along with some of the wives she wrote about, I did not hesitate to order both the book and audio version, recorded by Heath Lee herself. This book has become one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES!
“League of Wives” is the story you won’t see in a documentary about the Vietnam War. Those specials dwell on what the government was doing in that war and what the men endured as prisoners. Back on the home front were the wives and children left behind without support of husbands, fathers, or their government. Most were wives of officers who had learned in the Officers’ Wives Handbook—“Don’t do anything to embarrass or jeopardize your husband’s careers.” But after years of waiting and getting no answers, enough was enough! The wives joined forces and took on the government.
Ms. Lee did a beautiful job with her research and attention to detail. She interviewed many of the wives who are still living, prisoner of war John McClain, and Bob Doyle, to name a few. You get to know the women and their struggles and start to understand what they had to deal with the time the first plane was shot down in 1967. Tired of waiting for answers from the government, who wanted the situation hidden away from the public, they came together and organized themselves taking on the government.
The book includes the history of the POW/MIA flag and the POW/MIA bracelets*, so many of us wore. The women used a secret code to get messages to and from their husbands in letters, always fearing their husbands would be killed by the NVM if they found out.
Most of the help came from outside the government, and you will learn about Ross Perot’s assistance and the involvement of the peace activists like Cora Weiss. You will feel the wives’ frustration and will be appalled when you read that Bob Dole was the first senator to bring their plight before Congress in 1970, only to find that many members of Congress didn’t even know what POW or MIA stood for! (Congress was just as clueless then as it is today!)
I gave the book five stars! I wasn’t the only one who loved it. Reese Witherspoon bought the movie rights! I can’t wait for it to hit the big screen. So I challenge you to read this book FIRST! Click on the link above that will take you to Amazon.
Congratulations! Ms. Lee
Much Success with this and your FUTURE projects!
*Major Perry Jefferson – Capt. Perry H. Jefferson, USAF was the name engraved on my POW/MIA bracelet. After wearing the silver bracelet for years, I removed it for the first time before boot camp (NO jewelry allowed). While I was gone, my niece wore it and returned it to me after graduation. Unfortunately, with years of wear, it broke while I was making my rack at my first duty station, Areogphers Mate School at NAS Lakehurst, NJ. I remember the loss and sadness I felt and in 1974 there had been no updates on his MIA status. I kept the bracelet and traced his name from the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C.
Major Perry Henry Jefferson, U. S. Air Force – 37-year-old from Colorado. Capt. Jefferson failed to return from an observation mission on April 3, 1969. In 2001, a Vietnamese national living in California turned over his remains to U.S. officials stating that they were recovered at a site where two U.S. pilots crashed. In 2007 he was identified and his remains were turned over to his family. Capt. Jefferson was post-humorously promoted to Major. Thirty-nine days from the day he disappeared, he was buried with full honors in Arlington National Cemetary.
P.S. Read my other review, Lady Leathernecks.
It’s been eighteen years since the War on Terrorism began. So much has changed about the way we live. Yet it seems like yesterday–one of those days that is embedded in our memory forever. May we never forget!
Hanover County will be holding A Day of Remembrance on Wednesday, September 11that 0900. I will go and join my friends at the Sheriff’s Office to be where I sat that fateful morning. Here is an exert from my memoir. After you read it, please leave a comment and tell me where you were that ill-fated morning.
The twelve-inch television sat in the far corner of the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Office. It was set on the CBS Early Show at 0852 hours on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I was alone while my partner, Deputy Jim McLaughlin, was out working on Hanover County Sheriff’s Office state certification. I didn’t pay much attention to what was happening until I heard Bryan Gumbel’s voice. ‘Sports!’ I thought to myself. ‘I hate sports and that arrogant sports reporter!’ Before I could get up and change the channel, though, I realized he wasn’t talking about sports; he was talking about a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.
Smoke was ascending from one of the two tallest buildings in New York City. I watched as the newscaster discussed the possibilities. The plane was invisible. Black smoke surrounded the top of the massive structure.
My first thought, an accidental plane crash, was immediately wiped away. Brian interviewed witnesses by phone, at 0902 hours. I analyzed what was being said, along with countless other Americans, as a second plane plowed into the second tower.
“Oh, my god! This is no accident.” I blurted out loud to myself. The sight of what just happened made me leap to my feet, yet I felt paralyzed and unable to move at the same time. Holding on to the corner of the desk still staring at the TV, I got my bearings and ran out the door and across the hall barging into the investigators’ office. It startled the four investigators who were sitting at their computer screens finishing up reports. They all looked up at me as I burst out with, “Two planes just flew into the twin towers in New York City!”
“Geeze!” One investigator leaped to his feet. “The sheriff’s friend is there and is supposed to be visiting someone in one of the towers!” He ran passed me out the door and made a beeline to the front office. Everyone else followed me back to my office where we sat and watched the horror unfold on the little TV, taking turns, making phone calls to family and friends.
Words like ‘a possible terrorist attack’ immediately began flooding the airwaves. My thoughts quickly went to the Marines. If this were a terrorist attack, I would be recalled to active duty. It’s what Marines train for and the purpose of having a strong reserve force. I felt the need to be there. National defense seemed much more critical now than giving neighborhood watch and crime prevention presentations.
I loved being a deputy sheriff but was not especially thrilled when I was persuaded to take the Crime Prevention position back in January. The excitement of law enforcement work was out on the road, taking calls, stopping vehicles, and making arrests. However, when you work for a sheriff, ‘the good old boys’ club,’ you do what you’re asked. I was always told, the sheriff can fire you at any time for no cause. What I wanted was to become the sex crimes investigator and take the sergeants test, but first I had to put my time in here. My time in the Marine Corps was almost over. I had only two more years until mandatory retirement. Serving even part of that time on active duty would be challenging, to say the least, but also exciting and financially beneficial.
By 0940 hours, a third plane had flown into the Pentagon. I knew Rick, the Marine I was dating, was on his way from Quantico to Bethesda Naval Hospital for a doctor’s appointment. Bethesda was close to the Pentagon. What must I-495 look like? I frantically tried to reach him by cell phone, but the line continued to buzz a busy signal.
By noon all work had ceased. Everyone was either glued to a T.V. set or listening to the news on the radio. A fourth plane had crashed in Summerset County, Pennsylvania. When would this stop? All commercial airliners were grounded, and military F-15s were filling the skies. What was happening in the news looked like we were already at war. Terrorist attacks were finally declared. My partner Jim was back in the office now, watching it with me.
“What does this mean for you?” he asked, knowing full well I would volunteer myself if not involuntarily recalled.
“Probably active duty,” I answered. Being on active duty almost guaranteed I would remain at the unit I drilled at, Security Battalion at MCB Quantico. Rick was there, although he could deploy. As an IMA Reservist (Individual Mobilization Augmentee), I was attached to a unit in support of the active-duty Marines and take their place if they deploy.
At 1500 hours it was time to call my friend Dale McNeil, Liaison at Quantico’s Reserve Affairs. “How soon am I going back on active duty?” I asked her.
“Headquarters is already working on orders. Advise your employer. I’ll keep you posted once I have dates.”
“Okay. I’ll be ready whenever the orders are!” I answered. Dale knew how much I loved being on active duty. She had worked out plenty of work assignments for me in the past when I wasn’t working, but now with a full-time job, I could only drill two days a month and two weeks ATD required of all reservists. When Sheriff Cook hired me, I had just gotten off two months of voluntary active duty. During my final interview, he asked, “Are you planning on leaving us and going back on active duty any time soon?”
“No, Sir,” I assured him. “Other than drill weekends and two weeks each year. The only way I would go back is if there was a war.”
The phones started working again. Word filtered down the sheriff’s friend was okay. He hadn’t been in the building when the plane hit.
Rick called me once he arrived back at Quantico; “I heard the explosion while I was on the beltway! Got to Bethesda and the gates were closed. They weren’t allowing anyone in. We were told to turn around and go back home. I-495 was a nightmare! How about you? Any word?”
“I called Dale. She said I should expect orders, but she wasn’t sure how long it would take. She promised to keep me posted. Will you deploy?”
“Highly unlikely, since my position here would require the logistics for support,” he reassured me.
I was going back on active duty; to my life as a Marine. Out of one uniform and into another.
General Alfred M. Gray, Jr.
29thCommandant of the United States Marine Corps (1 July 1987 – 30 June 1991)
On Tuesday, 13 August 2019, I had the honor of meeting the legendary General Al Gray, Special Guest Speaker at this month’s meeting of the Houston-Holicky-Sitter Veterans’ Luncheon in Henrico, Virginia. General Gray is our 29thCommandant. He stands out as the renegade warrior Commandant, wearing utilities in his official Marine Corps portrait. He is still wearing ‘cammies’ designed into a suit jacket, with a Marine Corps tie.
General Gray spoke to a packed house of active duty, retired, and veterans from all branches. He talked about our current Commandant General David H. Berger’s vision for the Marine Corps, the importance of technology for the modern Marine, and answered questions about his career. One question asked by an active duty Marine for Fort Lee, “What did the General think was the most important leadership aspect.” General Gray’s answer, ‘Taking care of your troops!
His biography, “AL GRAY, MARINE” is being written by Scott Laidig. Volume 1 (1950-1967) and Volume 2 (1968-1975) were available for purchase at the luncheon. Scott is now working on Volume 3. General Gray met with each veteran who purchased a copy of the book and personalized it with a handwritten note and autograph. All proceeds from sales go to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, a 501 ©(3) nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support for injured and critically ill post-9/11 service members from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
The Houston-Holicky-Sitter Veterans’ Luncheon is an informal forum for veterans of all branches of the armed forces. Col. Joseph J. Holicky, Jr. (USMC, ret.) and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Col. Carl L. Sitter (USMC, ret.) began having lunch together in the mid-1970s following their retirements. Over the years, other veterans and local active duty Marines joined them for lunch. In the early 1980’s Lt. Col. L.W. “Chip” Houston (USMCR, ret.) became part of the leadership team and served as its Master of Ceremonies for over 25 years. Today nearly 100 veterans meet each month to carry on the HHS tradition and to hear prominent guest speakers address military history, national security issues, and other topics of interest to veterans.