My Veteran Uncles

Growing up, my two favorite uncles were Dick and Allen, mom’s big brothers. As is still true today, back in the 50’s they both volunteered for the army to escape the poverty and hopelessness of Northern Maine. Both lied about their ages to get in. Uncle Allen was 16 and Dick was 17. Anything to get away.

Uncle Dick had the coolest farm. He kept a pony for me ANC a dog and about a thousand kittens. Hai farm was small for the area, maybe 100 acres or so. But there was always exciting stuff happening around Uncle Dick. He didn’t make his livelihood from the farm really. He learned to fly in the Korean War and he was a cropduster. The only one around for fifty miles so he was in great demand. Uncle Dick would take me deep into the woods where we’d Wade down little brooks, fishing. He had a salt lick atthe back of his plowed area and show me the deer and does tha would gather there. I never got that he killed them when his meat supply was getting low, but that’s just how things were back there. He would take me “driving” out in the backwoods. I was driving his Jeep at seven years old and flying his plane at five.

Uncle Dick had this very interesting barn. No cows or anything but he did have a chicken coop. He had an apple orchard that was from what he guessed aaas around a hundred years old. I adored him.

Unfortunately his father, a raging alcoholic, set the house on fire and killed uncle Dick and his second wife Linda and her 4 year old baby boy. There was no fire dept up there, so they just died. I was eleven when this happened. It took four days for the volunteer fire brigade to find them.

Uncle Allen was a total mystery man. Career army guy, he started out in thr 101st Airborne teaching scared recruits how to skydive. He alwAys said it was mainly him throwing out the plane door frightened teenagers. It was a good day when nobody threw up on him he’d say.

Somewhere along the way Uncle Allen became a Green Beret. Total badass. His primary job in Vietnam was to go illegally into Cambodia and blow up bridges for awhile. Later he went illegally to Laos to teach young men how to fight the Chinese.

We could never know where Uncle Allen was because he was doing all kinds of totally illegal sbit that the US was busy denying. He’d drop in for a few days or a week out of the blue. More than once I came home from
School and there he was. He always gave me his medals. He had just a ton of them but he couldn’t keep them
Anyplace where they’d be found because that would mean bad bad things for US foreign relations. He was also involved in totrure things, wayyyy outside the Geneva Convention.

After he was forced to retire from the military Uncle Allen worked for the CIA doing all sorts of illegal things for his country. Vietnam was still going on during this time. My Uncle Allen was one of those guys who helped get the last people helicoptered off the roof of the US Embassy. There was no room for him but being a very secretly connected guy he was able to get away.

When The Pentagon Papers was published Uncle Allen’s “projects” were released. He had to immediately change his name and move to Alaska, where he became a Teamster and did trucking on the Alaska pipeline.

I will never forget sitting at the bar in the basement at 3 in the morning with my dad and Uncle Allen as he told of his exploits. I remember dad asking him if he thought the spy stuff he was doing was wrong. He said let me sing you the National Anthem and we all cried. It’s a very complicated thing.

A few days before the final airlift from the US Embassy Uncle Allen was given this elephant from the then temporary president of South Vietnam. Elephants are for luck in that culture. When Uncle Allen died he gave it to me. It is one of my prized possessions, the base of my little temple.

Many people would say that the things my Uncle Allen did for his country were wrong. In fact he risked his life every day. Had he been captured I can’t imagine what would have been done to him. In the US he’d have certainly at leased be jailed for life, if not killed. If by the other sides, certain brutal death.

My Uncle Allen was a hero. When he died of complications from cirrhosis of the liver he was buried in Arlington National
Cemetary with a 21-gun salute. They do not do that for just anybody.

Memorial Day is always a happy day for me. I think of these two wonderful men, both national heroes. And I smile and I smile and I smile. Thinking of them gives me courage.

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6 Comments

  1. Tiger said,

    May 31, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Way to make me cry! This was beautifully said.

  2. May 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks hon. Incredible guys both.

  3. May 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories of your uncles. They were both heroes.

  4. Finding Melissa said,

    May 31, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Really enjoyed this. Too tired to explain why (maybe about bringing characters to life and taking me on a journey?!)….but thank you and certainly shouldn’t be all about illness. Hugs.


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