Into The Light: Jonn Lilyea

There are times one knows one must write something, but you hope that such need not be done for years.  You know the day is coming, but hope against hope it need not be today.  However…

What can one say about a man who was, as Hondo notes, a man of honor and courage?  Who faced challenges from the battlefield to the health problems that came from his service with both fortitude and humor?  Who, at considerable personal expense, supported his fellow troops of all services and veterans?  TSO has done an amazing job of it, yet, there is so much more that can be said.

Given the antics of his own cats, I suspect that Jonn would get a chuckle out of the fact that my landlord’s cat is grabbing my arm as I write this, demanding love.  A chuckle that might turn into a smile as the cat runs away when I try to give her a skritch for him.

I honestly can’t remember when I first met Jonn, but I remember well the first night I had the honor of sitting in his home smoking cigars, enjoying fine aged Panamanian rum, and solving the problems of the world.  That rum was a favorite of his, and is now a favorite of mine.  It was a night of bonding, and discovering a friend who was one of those rare types that you feel you’ve been friends forever.

Over the years, I was one of many who benefited from his sage, sometimes gruff, advice.  And, the occasional swift kick in the ass given as only a first sergeant can give.  He was always there, not just for me, but for many.  If you served, or were serving, he had your back.  I suspect strongly that in the final tally he literally helped thousands indirectly through his writing and works, and more than can be counted directly.

He loathed poseurs, and spent time and money exposing them.  It is worth noting that some he did not go after in public, dealing with them in private.  It is also worth noting that if they came clean, he offered advice and encouragement to them.  Those that didn’t, well…  When I joined the Indiana Guard Reserve (state guard, not national) one of the first things I did was to tell him, both to share the news and to let him know that if he saw a photo of me in uniform that I had not gone off the reservation.  He gave me some much needed advice (‘he’s an asshole here’s what you do’) more than once.

Jonn was gruff, crusty, and had a soft center that could even be gooey.  He didn’t like to talk about his own problems, but was always there for so many to hear of life’s challenges and triumphs.  His loss is a loss for the Republic and especially for his family and friends.  Like TSO, I ask that if you are religious, please say a prayer for his family and friends.  If you serve, or have honorably served, raise a toast to him.

I toasted him last night, and this morning raise my coffee mug to him remembering the last time I saw him.  I had gone by his place for a visit, and Jonn insisted — as only he could — that I spend the night instead of pressing on with my journey.  He equally insisted that I stay for breakfast, though the morning was too cold for us to smoke a cigar on the porch as planned.  His loss has brought tears to my eyes, and smiles and laughter at some of the memories — he would approve of the latter.

He was a man of battlesteel-clad honor and integrity, and we are the richer for him and having known him.  For all that his death leaves a void in many lives, I give thanks that I knew him and echo Patton in saying “Thank God that such a man lived.”

Godspeed Jonn.

The Journey Continues

Not so much an apology, but an explanation of my lack of blogging the last few years.  For anyone interested.

As a good friend told me a couple of years ago, if you want to look after others, you have to look after yourself first.  That can be hard for me, as I tend to put others first.  Fact is, I was born allergic to almost everything, and that made my childhood interesting all by itself.

About three years ago, I was told I had cancer, based on a purely visual exam.  Took an exploratory procedure to prove I didn’t, and, yes, I fired the first doc in question and will never go back to a second.  Thankfully, found a very good doc in the process that I will cheerfully use again at need.  This was why I stepped down from Mission: VALOR and turned it over to others to run.

Then, other issues required me to be tested for a variety of nasty auto-immune diseases.  Again, thankfully, those were negative though I do have arthritis and some other inflammation issues.  I feel weather changes more than I realize, as I have a tendency to ignore (and not recognize) pain and related.  I’ve lived with some degree of pain for so long it simply doesn’t register as such.  Some of the issues come from things I’ve done in the past, and as I’ve told some, if I had known how much I would pay for them later, I would have done more so I feel that I have truly earned it.  That said, glad I did them despite the price.

Almost exactly a year ago today, I had what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy.  Unfortunately, there was bleeding after that sent me to the ER and required an emergency procedure to deal with, during which I had to be given Epi to keep my heart beating.  I was conscious and watching when I started to crash again in recovery.  Remember not being scared, and found it interesting that the 12-lead data did not show what I would have expected for what happened.  Thankfully, my heart did not stop and I did recover.  Sadly, I never have gotten honest answers about comments I overheard in the ER about the original doctor and what was/was not done, and as such will never use the IU network again.

On top of it all, some other things led me to get some help and a diagnosis of non-combat PTS.  The root issue has been addressed, and I will add that my time in Iraq was beneficial for my PTS, which says a lot.  I will say that EMDR works, is intense, and I don’t recommend pushing it and treatment as hard as I pushed mine.  Now dealing with the secondary effects (all the things other than the original cause) and moving forward.  I would remind everyone that Hollyweird and the media do not give an honest or accurate account of PTS, and that the majority of those who have it are not a danger to others (mostly to themselves).

I’m now part of an amazing survivors group.  If you have PTS, depression, etc., please do reach out.  Too many don’t, and feel cut off and alone.  You are not.  Please, take the time and reach out to someone.  It is hard, but worth it and there is no shame in getting help.

So, putting myself and my life back together, and it is an interesting journey.  Sometimes in terms of the Chinese curse, most of the time a good and blessed thing.  My faith has been strengthened, as I see many blessings and examples of when and how things could have been much worse.  My faith in humans and human institutions, well, still not high and as a convert to the Catholic faith not improving given leadership of same, from Pope Che (as a friend calls him) on down.  There are a number of good priests, however, and they do so much for so many.

All any of us can do is try to do our best, to help others in need, and to try to do some good in the world.  The latter takes many forms, and I am more committed than ever to our troops and veterans for they do a lot of good at a high cost to themselves.

There is more to come, though it may be a bit sporadic for a while.

Politics Above All?

Some posts are easier to write than others. The last few weeks have seen some truly horrible people exposed for what they are: sexual predators. Sadly and predictably, that is now devolving. Frankly, I hope the spotlight will stay on the real predators, and that justice be done in court where possible. I particularly hope that stays true for politicians, but I want all the real predators to face justice as it hits home for me in ways I won’t go into at this time.

One bit of the devolving involves a candidate (who I am glad lost for many other reasons) who has a chorus of virtue signaling harpies calling a pedophile though his alleged behavior is not such. If true, wrong; but, it was not and is not pedophilia. The screeching bothers me on several levels, especially as it provides cover to real pedophiles and does harm to the real victims of same.

I’ve reached out in private to more than one such person, explaining things and have gotten positive responses. I’ve also, predictably, gotten responses were “the cause” and politics matter more to the person than the real harm they are causing. While I am tempted towards a very intemperate response, I instead pray for their souls.
Understand, I know people who were victims of real pedophilia. I have some as readers/fans/other. They are trying hard to not just be survivors, but to thrive and become victors despite the horrible things done to them. This is personal for me.

If your politics, of any stripe, matter more to you than the truth, including that you are doing real and demonstrable harm on this issue, then I will pray for your souls – and cut you out of my life for you are a cancer on both the body politic and society as a whole. Neither I, nor real victims of pedophiles, need that in our lives.

I’m a big believer in both positive growth and in redemption. I want those who were victimized to become victors, and will do all I can to support that. I will hope and pray that those who don’t get that may have their eyes opened, and if they do I will welcome them back into my life. Otherwise, no, and I ask you to pray for them as well.

Into The Light: Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner has passed. I never had the chance to meet him, though I’m told both he and his daughter Christie both checked me out when I did my photographic internship at Playboy.
 
While there were — of course — tales of parties and such, most of the tales I heard about him concerned photography and his passion for it. Not just passion, but considerable knowledge and appreciation.
 
One tale I was told concerned his directives on what format was used to shoot various sized shots in the magazine. The larger the picture in the magazine, the larger the format with the centerfolds being shot on an 8×10 camera. One of the long-time photographers told me of a time they tested Hugh, as they didn’t think he could tell the difference. Seems he caught on to the test, correctly identified which photo had been shot on what format, and sent back a message basically saying ‘good try, don’t ever do that again or you are fired.’
 
When I was there was a time of transition for the empire. Christie had just taken over, and Hugh had left Chicago for good. The photography was changing, but there was still quite a bit of the “it’s not what you show, but how you don’t show it” philosophy at work. The idea was to be fresh, but elegant, and not to sink to the levels of some other publications. That philosophy still shapes a lot of what I do.
 
And, yes, Hugh not only selected the playmates, at the time I was there he still personally approved every photo that went into magazine. He was also quite serious about the “girl next door” part of things, and anyone moving towards being a playmate was vetted to be sure they met his standards on that.
 
So, to Hugh: Thank You. Your magazine influenced my youth in photo and in word (yes, I did read the articles, sometimes before looking at the photos). Interning at your magazine is still influencing my photography to this day. The chance to meet Pompeo and other photographers, and more importantly to work extensively with David Mecey, David Chan, and Randy Goss (the studio manager) did wonders to improve my talent. Indirectly, you introduced me to some wonderful things and a number of good people. Godspeed.

Into The Light: Jerry Pournelle

NOTE:  I started writing this the day the news broke; but, life has been hectic and frankly this one has been hard to write.  So, trying to finish it now and get it out. 

Since hearing the news of his death, I’ve been thinking about the Jerry Pournelle I knew. That phrasing is very deliberate, because science fiction fandom has long been into drama, and the tall tales of Jerry and others were legend continuously being embellished and embossed. Many in the field have written about him, and he was a giant in the field. Yet, far fewer realize the impact he had on many areas outside the field.

I first met him at a worldcon (LA I think) and while he was harried and hurried, he was gracious. I think I met him again at another con, but it was when we met at a science conference that he took a look at me, and some amazing things (from my perspective) happened.

I suddenly found myself under his wing, loudly threatened with a messy departure from this life (his booming pronouncement of same echoing through the atrium literally caused the lobby and other parts of the Hyatt in Chicago to fall silent), and being introduced to a wide range of figures in science, science fiction, and other fields. In fact, at that science conference, I found myself going to a dinner I could only dream of on government per diem with Jerry, his lovely and gracious wife Roberta, Fred Pohl, and a number of other luminaries.

What struck me at the time was that he and the others treated me and my opinions as worthy of hearing and discussion — and drew me out on them. While I had been doing science reporting and writing for several years at that point, I was still early in my career and was definitely the junior party present. In fact, I rather felt like an E-1 suddenly finding himself at dinner with the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs and other senior leaders. Yet, Jerry set the tone and I was encouraged by all to join in on the discussions.

It was the first of several such dinners over the years, and I’m glad I finally got the chance to reciprocate many years later. It was more than dinners. I found myself included in a number of discussions, informal meetings, and more. We discussed ways to get humanity into space, deal with a variety of threats here at home, and shoot the bull. Jerry, and Roberta, helped take some rough edges off of me, and provided some life lessons well beyond writing.

Yet, for all that he was a giant in the science fiction field, few realize the crucial role he played in winning the Cold War; in the aerospace industry; in setting the stage for the current commercial space industry; in advancing computing and personal computing; and, with Roberta, in education. Few realize he was a polymath, with degrees covering a wide range of topics while focused on his core. He had significant impact in each of them.

He served in the Korean War with the Army, then obtained several degrees. While doing that, he also worked for Boeing and as part of that worked on Project Thor, a KEV concept that continues to evolve (and offers a much needed alternative to nuclear strikes, IMO). He then went on to do more work in the field, including serving as the founding president of the Pepperdine Research Institute.

When I was working commercial space activities at NASA, I was unsurprised to find that Jerry was there ahead of me in terms of sowing seeds with the investment community. Not just for launch services, but in terms of the wide range of research that can (and does) benefit from research in microgravity — everything from casting metals to plant growth.

His work — and Roberta’s — in education is very much under appreciated in my opinion. Together, they have advanced a number of theories and initiatives that could help with the current state of education.

His work in computing was far more than his column. In fact, he used his column to push a number of things that have helped bring about the current state of the field — and lay groundwork for the future.

The small part I played in the Cold War was an area where Jerry helped provide context by sharing history and his experiences, which pre-dated mine. It shaped some of my thoughts on preparedness — a topic on which we both had considerable interest.

Nor were all the times serious. We laughed, told tales, and generally had a good time even as we discussed and plotted on more serious things.

For all his legend, there was a great deal of thought behind what he said, and even how he said it. We did not always agree; but, when presented with a differing opinion he always listened and there were some interesting bits of discourse between those present. Eye opening and mind opening does not begin to describe it.

If there is a way to influence things from that which awaits, I have little doubt that he, Aleta Jackson, and some others are already deep into discussions and efforts to do just that.

There is so much more I could say, but the fact is he was more than an author. He was an innovator who encouraged innovation and growth in a number of fields. More than that, he encouraged people with a wide range of interests (and beliefs) to think, grow, and do.

Godspeed Jerry. Prayers are said for you and your family, and for all you leave behind. Thank you for all you did for me, and for being you. The world has lost not just a gifted writer, but someone who worked tirelessly to make practical and positive changes to the world.

Libby and Abby: 4-months plus

It has been a bit more than four months since a creature murdered Abigail Williams and Liberty German.  Libby, who was considering a career in law enforcement (forensics), caught a photo of the perp, and then recorded what happened to them.  The two girls stayed together until the end, despite any opportunities for one of them to escape.  Someone, somewhere, knows who this person is, will recoginze the photo or voice.  Share this far and wide, and leave the sack of something no place to hide.  More details on the investigation can be found here.

Remembering My Father

This is my Dad, in a photo shot during his first hitch in the Corps, app. 1932. He does resemble a certain fictional Gunny, doesn’t he?

Today, I remember my father, and I understand him more than he ever wanted me to in some areas. I really want to write his life story, but will probably have to do it as fiction as few would believe it otherwise.

During his first hitch, he was the sole survivor of his squad. They were on the then mandatory cruise after boot camp, and were up in formation on the deck of the Wyoming to witness a 5-inch gunnery demonstration when one of the guns blew. Dad came to with medics checking him, saying that this one was dead too because of the brains in his hair.

I only learned of the full details because years later he met a friend of mine named Jabe. I saw Dad giving him some serious looks at the time, but thought it might be for other reasons. Later, he took me aside and told me how Jabe reminded him of one of his best friends, a big guy who happened to be standing in front of Dad that fateful day on the Wyoming. He was enough bigger that he shielded Dad from the worst.

When WWII started, Dad had a draft-exempt job at Hercules Powder. The supervisor kept getting him temporary exemptions, and Dad told him to make it a permanent one or he was gone. The supervisor did a temporary, and Dad went back into the Corps. He taught marksmanship (San Diego, where his next-door-neighbor was Joan Crawford), until he and others heard their names called as volunteering to reinforce Marines on an island that fell soon after.

In Hawai’i during transit, he saw a notice for a bodyguard/orderly position, and put in for it immediately. The officer who interviewed him was quite taken with Dad’s expert ratings with various weapons (he had shot competitions for the Corps during his first hitch), and then asked him when he had been an orderly. Dad replied that he had been orderly to the Captain of the Wyoming in 193X. Dad had indeed been assigned that duty, for a week, as his light duty after the gun accident. The officer didn’t ask Dad how long, but instead asked him “Are you a goddamm retread?” My Dad, at the time a good Southern Baptist, responded “Yes Sir! I am a goddamm retread Sir!” The officer laughed, and said that he was exactly what they were looking for. He then asked Dad if he would like to meet the officer for whom he would be orderly and bodyguard. Dad said yes, and the man went and knocked on a door, opened it, and said “Admiral Spruance, would you like to meet your new orderly?”

Dad had a couple of regular stories about WWII, funny ones. About sleeping on top of the Hiroshima bomb without knowing what it was. It took decades, but as I got older he let a few things slip. I know he went ashore more than once, and I suspect he helped bury his fellow Marines. I suspect strongly that he saw some combat, though he never talked about it as such. Just some comments that in retrospect revealed some first-hand knowledge. I suspect he saw first hand when Japanese families and civilians jumped (or were driven) over a cliff when the Marines were taking one of the last islands. He talked about the efforts he and his brother John (B-29 pilot) to write home daily after the news of the Indianapolis sinking came out. Each letter talked about ‘had dinner with Cliff/John (depending on who was writing), ‘had lunch with Cliff/John,’ and such as that to let the family know he was alive, as last they knew Dad was on the Indianapolis with the Admiral. The efforts they undertook to avoid the censors but get the word that Dad was alive (since they could not say it directly) were delightful.

You always tell the funny ones. Mine is of the Brad being attacked by the Iraqi grandmother with a broom, furious that the babies had been awakened. Dad’s mostly revolved around sleeping on the bomb, and the Admiral laughing at the look on Dad’s face when he found out what he had been sleeping on. You always tell the funny ones.

This Fathers Day, I remember my Dad. I now understand his vehemence when he told the 10-year-old me that he hoped I would NEVER qualify to join the American Legion. I understand a lot of what he didn’t say, what he shared that I didn’t understand, and why he never talked about some of it. I really do need to write his story one day, but the above is just the tip of the iceberg.

I miss you Dad. And I understand, more than you ever wanted me to.