What a wonderful time of year as we prepare for the holidays! My weather phone app indicates that it is 25 degrees outside. Evidence of the second area snowfall remains as white patches are sprinkled over fallen crispy dead brown leaves. Forecasters predict more to come this week. We have just honored our U.S. veterans on Nov. 11, so I am writing this month’s column in honor of my favorites.
Drum roll, please. Of course, my favorite in Kingsport is Jack Mahaffey. Not only is he a Georgia Bulldog but his wife, Margaret, and I have shared many laughs most often when playing bridge. With a year of college under his belt, Jack enlisted into the Army National Guard at age 17 and fulfilled his boot camp obligations at Fort Stewart in Savannah, Georgia, where fighting the sand gnats and mosquitoes was as challenging as his duties. He served as a medic trainer for those going to the Korean battlefields. The end of that war prompted his return to college at the University of Georgia on the G.I. Bill which was originally enacted in 1944 offering benefits for returning World War II veterans.
I could not write this column without mentioning the funniest and most generous person I have ever met ~ Mary Alice Beard ~ who retired after 20 years from the Air Force with stories galore. From small-town Georgia, she had the opportunity to meet many interesting people and travel in several countries. Her advice to those entering the service now is to “Learn all you can, see all you can. Understand that even the worst job or assignment leaves you with knowledge and experience.” Through those experiences, she realized that “we are the greatest country in the world” and now serves as a community leader in her hometown.
Jeremy Jackson’s father served in the Air Force before becoming a pastor. He advised his son to attend college first so when he enlisted, he would be an officer. Jackson served through the Navy and has traveled to places I have never heard of nor know how to spell. Currently a young family man, his advice to those considering joining the military is “to be ready to contribute. Learn as much as you can. Be a team player and get promoted.” At present, he is working in the University of Georgia’s financial aid department and is earning a master’s degree.
Uncle John S. Crosby married my father’s sister, Flo, and retired from the Army as a Lt. General (3-stars). He grew up as a “military brat” and attended North Carolina State where he earned his degree and entered the Army through the R.O.T.C. He served in Vietnam and spent many hours flying in helicopters dodging enemy groundfire. Three stars is proof of an excellent military career where he attributes his service as an “opportune time to do the best you can and learn responsibility for fellow soldiers.” He found the military life to be rewarding as he served with “many great young men.”
My father, Harold Clark Kendrick, Jr. (Unk), entered the Marine Corp as a drill instructor on Parris Island, South Carolina, after his freshman year at N.C. State where eating healthy meals at times could be circumvent. So, his favorite memory from boot camp was the food, “We ate well.” His least favorite was the mandatory rise and shine at 4 a.m. He wanted to see action in Korea, but the war ended before that goal was realized. Honesty, discipline and doing the best he could are traits he claimed to have fine-tuned as a soldier. Daddy loved being a Marine and believes every man should serve his country in “some service.” He also received his degree at the University of Georgia on the G.I. Bill.
Wish there was more space to share interesting and funny stories (cutting across the flight line in a VW under the wing of a F4 jet; sneaking onto base; guarding clothes-lines overnight; pranks; avoiding ships in the Suez Canal; travel destinations; the base veterinarian was also the meat inspector; when the red phone rang ~ yes, it is red!).
A similar thread running through these veterans is the honor they feel having served our country; the benefits each received through training, as well as, using the G.I. Bill and Veterans Health Administration. It is an honor for me to know them. As we look to Thanksgiving this week, may we remember the blessings we have in our freedom because of the efforts so many have contributed. To those who are still alive to talk about it and to those who gave their lives, we owe much. Thank you also to those civilians who served whether in an official job capacity or being a family member or friend.
May God bless you this Thanksgiving and may your Christmas be a joyful and merry one!
Susan E. Kendrick is a Sunday Stories columnist who shares her insights and Southern humor each month in Sincerely, Susan. To correspond with Susan, email her at [email protected] To share your events for our Out & About calendar, email us at [email protected]