by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 25 August 2016
Outside books, we avoid colorful characters. Mason Cooley
Jack came to mind the other day and I've no idea why.
But he did and so this morning a bit about Jack.
Another officer and I walked into Jack's office at IIMEF (Marine Expeditionary Force) Headquarters to fine tune some training coordination. That was some 25 years ago.
My fellow officer knew Jack. He'd served with him.
I did not and had not thus it was our first meeting.
Entering Jack's office, he was seated behind a desk about a dozen paces away to our starboard oblique (in civ div speak, our 2 o'clock).
He looked up, recognized "Tony," and, without a word but an expression between a smirk and you've-got-to-be-kidding-me, flipped him off.
With that warm welcome and knowing exactly why the sign language, Tony started talking - explaining he was old enough to have been issued and wearing camouflage utilities with slanted breast pockets (coveted by Marines to look salty).
He was not. And Jack, who was, knew it.
As Tony babbled, Jack let fly a few colorful words while reaching for something (that turned out to be a cord) - a small pig fitted with wings dropped from the ceiling and hovered aside him.
Tony quit talking.
I was introduced to Jack.
Jack was a character. I liked him. No nonsense. Knew his business. And there was something about him that was genuine and magnetic.
That was my only encounter with Jack. But not forgotten.
More than a decade later, while talking to another Marine friend, Jack's name came up.
He said when Jack was in command of a battalion he was the executive officer.
What I remembered about that conversation was his colorful descriptions of Jack - leaving no doubt we were talking about the same Marine.
Yesterday I sent a note to my now retired pal just to confirm what I remembered.
Such was confirmed and a bit more. His note went something like this ...
'Yes, I was his XO. What a remarkable leader. As you noted, he wore a drover's coat and a loaded .45. Too, he wore his father's World War II 782 gear (his father a squad leader on Makin Island), and instead of our Kevlar he'd wear a German army helmet. And he got me a command job - advising me to be at the interview with the general at 0800 and don't look too squared away.'
What I also remember from our long past conversation was comment about how the morale of Marines would soar when Jack was about - especially so when in the field and he'd show up, clad as described above, at all sorts of times and weather conditions checking on Marines.
Marines knew he cared, genuinely, about them. For leaders like Jack, Marines will do anything.
Why did (and do) I remember Jack?
And why remember that conversation about Jack?
Jack died some years ago. I remember the date - this month, a few days ago, the anniversary. And though not really knowing him, I remember feeling a bit sad when reading the news.
But Jack is not forgotten.
And I suspect there are just a few Marines out there reading who know and, too, will long remember Jack.
Marines like Jack, colorful characters, make the Corps. They sure do! The Corps does not necessarily make colorful characters.
Yesterday, another great Marine leader - though a colorful character different than Jack and whom I did know and served under - was formally interred in Arlington National Cemetery. He died earlier this year - only hours before a couple of other Marines and I could reach his bedside. We went, anyway.
God be with you, Colonel Donald J. Myers, USMC.
I suspect Colonel Myers knew LtCol Jack. Odds good they served together (both rated slanted pockets). If not, now they do serve - in overwatch.
These men, and their likes - colorful characters, fit for the pages of books - are why I miss being around Marines. None compare.
Semper Fidelis, Marines.
Jack last's name withheld, for the good order.
Speaking of books, a great one by Colonel Myers. Strongly recommend: https://www.amazon.com/Pride-Discipline-Hallmarks-United-States-ebook/dp/B00KNOPONQ#nav-subnav