Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day 3K

I ran in my city's Memorial Day 3K fun run yesterday morning, a low-key race I often participate in.  It's flat and fast and free, and you get a T-shirt at the end.

This year my church had a contingent of parishioners run in the race wearing distinctive T-shirts extolling its mission.  It has been struggling to rebuild its membership following the defection of its former chief priest with a majority of the congregation under his charismatic sway to a homophobic, misogynistic sect, taking the entire church property worth tens of millions with them! 

It took six years of litigation by the Episcopalian diocese to evict these squatters, which finally happened last year following years of lonely worship in the loft of a church across the street by a core of local believers in the church's obligation to be inclusive rather than exclusive in its message of love.  The lengthy enforced separation from its historic and rightful property decimated the church's local congregation base but didn't destroy its message of true faith.

We followed the lead in the race yesterday of the newly arrived chief priest who issued a challenge to any church member who was his age or older of buying a beverage of choice at the local pub for anyone who beat him.  He might have re-hydrated there after the race, but he didn't spot a beverage for anyone else.

As soon as I showed up before the race I could see in his attire and his build that he was a runner.  It's hard to spot that otherwise when the only time I normally see him he's in a shapeless flowing robe, showing nothing and hiding all.  (Above:  Reverend John is on the left, next to the only parishioner who beat him in the 3K run.)

Plus he was being largely uncommunicative before the race.  I recognized the attitude from my salad days of racing last decade--friendly but focused on the upcoming task.

The gun sounded and off we went.  The priest took the lead of the church's congregation amongst the first wave of racers and never looked back,  I didn't see him again after the first minute.

I was running a race in isolation because there was no way I could keep up with the priest and except for a younger parishioner who was hanging with him (and beat him), I was faster than the rest of the congregation members who were there in their distinctive T-shirts (I think).  I started off steadily at a swift enough pace for me these days, glad that I had jogged the mile from my house to the starting point thus infusing my blood with oxygen already in my exertions.  (Above:  Pre-race.)

Round the first four corners we went as the race stretched out from its jammed, pell-mell start to a more ordered series of groups of runners running at the same pace.  As we approached the final turn slightly past the halfway point onto the long last straightaway to the finish, my watch read eight minutes.  Although I was tiring and people were steadily starting to pass me, I was hanging in there. 

The city blocks of the long last stretch were interminable but the raucous crowd support was nice.  We passed the Catholic church then the new high rise unit then the library and there was the final signal light just before the end less than a block away.  I glanced at my watch and it showed 14:40, with a little effort I could break fifteen minutes.

I bestirred myself and finally stanched the steady flow of runners passing by me.  I hit the finish line at 14:55, an 8:00 pace, happy with my effort and my race. 

Father John had finished a minute and a half ahead of me.  When I saw him shortly later, he hardly looked bushed at all.

Monday, May 27, 2013


As I listen to the dull rumble of Rolling Thunder on the highways near my house, happy Memorial Day to all.  JJ&D, I'll be running the Falls Church Memorial Day 3K fun run if you want to come and join in.

I want to recognize the service of all who have served to protect us and our way of life.  It's too many to shout them all out individually so I'll just call out a few by name and contemplate the rest.  A Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honor guard and a fellow I occasionally ran with, Adam Dickmyer (killed in Afghanistan in 2011).

My Dad (Peleliu and Okinawa) and Uncles Bill (Philippines), Bob (North Africa and Sicily) and Harry (Fast Carrier raids on Tokyo and the battles of the Philippine Sea).  My Grandfather (North Atlantic in WWI).

Seymour (Battle of the Bulge), Rich (Korea) and practically all the fathers I encountered when I was growing up (WWII).  My forebears who served the Union in the Civil War, my brother (Beirut 1983) and my several friends who served in Vietnam (Bill Hovanic lost a leg there), the Cold War and the Mid-East wars.  Thanks.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  I want to tell you about a 20 year old U.S. Marine who was fighting for his country in April 1945 on Okinawa, a long slender island a few hundred miles south of Japan that was being seized by an American armada as a staging point for the expected invasion of Japan to end WWII. 

The Marine was a radioman and he was atop a ridge line in the pelting rain of an electrical storm, transmitting coordinates to offshore ships for their fire control.  Suddenly there was a tremendous noise and he was stunned and momentarily lost the ability to move.

"I remember looking down and seeing sparks arcing between the radio and my fingertips," he said decades later.  Lightning had struck his radio's fully extended antenna.

When his senses returned he checked himself out, determined that he was uninjured, got up and ambled about for a few minutes until his stupor wore off and then went back to work transmitting coordinates in the thunderstorm.  That was one of the few stories that Marine ever told about the grim Pacific War.

The Marine was my Dad, who passed away in 1986 when I was in my early thirties.  I still miss him terribly.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


As we close in on Memorial Day, I want to tell you about a 19 year old U.S. Marine who was fighting for his life on the night of September 15, 1944 on Peleliu, a 3-mile by 6-mile island 500 miles east of the Philippines. That was the first day of the amphibious assault by the First Marine Division so we could wrest the airport on this coral speck from the Japanese and safeguard General MacArthur's right flank as he took back the Philippines. 
The issue was in doubt that first night on Peleliu, and the Marine was in a foxhole not far from the beach as rounds passed by overhead, listening to the land crabs who shared the hole with him scuttle about. Suddenly something plunked into the hole from above in the darkness. 
Grenade? The Marine clambered about the bottom of the hole frantically, feeling the ground with his hands for the object so he could pitch it back out. 
"I was never so afraid in all my life," this strong, brave man said decades later. It turned out to be a coconut, clipped off an overhead tree by passing bullet.
That was one of the few stories that Marine ever told about the grim Pacific War. The Marine was my Dad, who passed away at age 61 in 1986.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Have A Nice Corporate Life, SunTrust Bank!

Remember when banks and S&Ls were your friends? When as a child you brought in a quarter a week for deposit into your Christmas club account and the tellers smiled and acted like they were glad to see you?

I went into a SunTrust branch near Union Station last week to buy some loose dollar coins for use in parking meters. They said they had unrolled dollar coins in their change drawer alright, did I have a SunTrust account?

"No."  Smiling broadly, the teller said she couldn't (wouldn't) help me.  Would I like to open an account?

I merely commented that I hoped CapitalOne branches treated SunTrust account holders the same way.  Smiling as broadly as the teller, a man in a suit seated at a nearby desk wished me a nice day as I headed for the door.