Monday, July 20, 2009


Carl and Helen befriended me not long after I started free-lancing at St. Tom's many years ago while I was working on my doctorate in molecular neurobiology at Stanford. He's a Deacon at Church, and Helen might as well be, for all the ministry she's done (and continues to do) over the years.

I suspect Carl had mentioned, long ago, that he retired from the Navy as a Captain, but it didn't register with me at the time. I didn't understand military rank structure, and didn't particularly want to. I wasn't at all interested in the military, no matter the Service.

It wasn't until much later (four years ago now, to be exact) that it dawned on me what a big deal it was that Carl retired as the equivalent of an Army Colonel (though I *still* can't fathom Navy enlisted rank structure and insignia!).

Carl has slowed down considerably in the past few years, which has meant that Helen has more and more on her plate. As ever, she does what needs doing, with dignity and good humor and grace. It has been a blessing to witness.

On my recent trip to the Midwest to visit my parents, I brought along a draft of Carl's reminiscences of the Second World War. He'd clearly put a lot of effort into it (or rather, it was clear that *Helen* had worked very diligently to type up everything Carl had written or dictated!), and I offered to proof-read it before they went to the expense of printing it up in quantity for their family.

Carl is a born storyteller, and it's been a delight to be present for so many of his tellings over the years. His written work sounds just like his spoken tales. Thus I wiled away the hours on the plane, absorbed by one and then another ancillary tale as Carl related how his mother had become cut off from the rest of the family upon the outbreak of war (she in Manila at their family home, Dad in New York on business, and Carl at Georgetown University pursuing his undergraduate degree), and he'd made it his mission to find her and reunite her with her family.

I had had no idea that Carl, though a very junior Officer, directed the construction of the U.S. naval facility at Morotai. While the Japanese were fighting to the death in Manila, Carl (not actually on leave, but with his Commander's approval) made his way to the city where he believed his mother might still be living, found a physician who had performed cancer surgery on her who told him where her last known address was, stubled his way behind enemy lines -- at great personal risk -- and found his mother and grandmother alive.

He later built the first U.S. naval headquarters in Manila before the end of the war.

Ever since my Long Retreat (the 30-day, silent, Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola) when it became clear that I was supposed to join the Army, I've become more and more aware of the heroes in our midst.

And more and more grateful for their courage and honor.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

Kanani said...

Isn't it great to have these "lives" brought to life? Like you, my husband joined in his 50's. Which pulled all of us --his family, into the military at an age roughly about 30 years older than most.

But each day we're in, one more stereotype is slain. And I'm utterly humbled by the people I'm meeting, and ever so grateful.

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