A Military Mom’s Diary: Tribute to HSC-6 Screamin’ Indians

Today we learned the identities of the two lost pilots in Sunday’s terrible accident aboard the USS William P. Laurence. They were Lt. Commander Landon L. Jones and Chief Warrant Officer Jonathon S. Gibson, both married with small children.

I created this tribute to them and the HSC-6 “Screamin’ Indians” and hope that the photos, sentiments and the lyrics of this song will ease the hearts of their friends and families and all Americans who join in mourning their loss & sacrifice.

(To view my original post about this accident click here .)

Advertisements

A Military Mom’s Diary: “Safe and Sound”

MH-60S Knighthawk

MH-60S Knighthawk

Yesterday I received the best email I’ve ever received in my life.  In the span of about 60 seconds I experienced the emotions of fear, joy, guilt and grief:

FEAR – Something bad has happened…are they involved in hostile activities?

JOY – Thank God my son is safe!

GUILT – My son is safe! But five other mothers’ sons are not…God help them!

GRIEF – Lost at sea…if they are alive they are probably hurt and afraid.  Will any of them be found? Will any of them survive? Lord be with them and hold them in Your hands!

The email that I received was from my son Brooks who is currently deployed as a Naval aviator assigned to the USS Nimitz strike group.  Brooks is a pilot and a member of the HSM 75 Helicopter squadron “Wolf Pack”.  He pilots the MH-60R Seahawk.  (I wrote about the experience of Brooks receiving his Naval Aviator “wings” in this previous post .)

Brooks’ email (Subject:  safe and sound) was received on Sunday, September 22, 2013 10:11 AM and said:

“Family,

 I can’t respond with any details but if you read the news I just wanted to calm any worries you might have and let you know that I’m okay. Please keep our sister squadron in your thoughts and prayers.

 Love you all,

Brooks”

A quick search on the internet revealed a news article that reported the crash of a MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter while either taking off or landing on a guided-missile destroyer, the USS William P. Lawrence.  Five crew-members were on board the aircraft at the time of the crash.  These helicopters are flown by the “Indians” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6, sister squadron to Brooks’ squadron (HSM 75 Wolf Pack.)

At the time we viewed this article originally, all five of the crewmen involved in the crash were still unaccounted for.  This was very concerning because the crash happened six hours earlier, but we hoped the delay was just in the reporting of the events.  Later in the afternoon the article was updated to report that three of the five crewmen had been rescued and were in stable condition and that search and rescue operations were being conducted for the missing two crewmen.

Sadly, this morning at 11:50 am EDT this Navy News article reports “Search and Rescue Efforts for MH-60S Aircrew Suspended.”

As the mother of an active-duty serviceman who is deployed in the Middle East I have had to learn how to live each day without being consumed with worry.  It is not easy but my faith in God helps me trust that Brooks is always being held in His hands.  Even so, I am realistic enough to know that bad things happen all of the time and no one is exempt from that possibility.

I saw this slogan on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Facebook page: “One Nation, One Navy, One Family” and it is so true.  Two families are being informed that their sons (brothers, husbands, maybe even fathers) were lost at sea.  My heart is so heavy with grief for them and I know that it could have so easily been my son involved in such an accident.

Joy > Guilt > Grief….such a dichotomy of emotions.

Lord in Heaven, I pray that you will be with the families and friends of the two crewmen who were lost yesterday in this terrible accident.  Please envelop them with Your comfort and peace and give them the strength to bear this realization of their greatest fear.  Be also with their fellow crewmembers that experienced this tragedy and those who helped with the search and rescue operations.  Give them the comfort of knowledge that they did all that was humanly possible in the situation. Help them stay strong and courageous during their mission.  Please bring them all home safely and soon.

Pre-WWII Love Letters – Chapter 2

Tuesday

 Dearest Gertie, 

            What a life, do we have to do some dumb things they call problems.  So far we have had five of them.  The first one was to walk 300 ft counting the number of steps and then find our average step.  Imagine about 50 fellows walking up and down in front of the frat house for about an hour.  Today we had a chain problem out on the baseball field.  Redmond went around talking about being a fugitive from a chain gang.  One of the fellows knows the prof. quit(e) well so the other day when he told us to go chain the road this guy pipes up with “why chain it it’ll stay there”.           

            Well honey I will have to close now and go get my lunch. The way things look now I won’t be able to come home until Saturday.

Love,
Walt

As this is only the second installment of my “Walt & Gertie” project, I am still working through documenting the letters and copying them.  I’ve learned a little bit about Walt in the process.

Here is some of what I have learned so far:

Walt was a student at the Colorado School of Mines and was a Junior in the year 1938.  He was also a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity the same year.  But so far I cannot find evidence that he graduated from the School of Mines the next year (1939).  It is possible that he might have transferred to another school, because in another letter to Gertie he mentions discussing the possibility of transferring with his father:

Monday evening

Dearest Gertie, 

            Well here it is the end of the first day.  We haven’t done much in the way of work today and from now on they say it gets easier.

            I told mom that your mother wanted you to go with them to dinner, and she said that she was sorry you couldn’t be with us.

            Sunday night when I was getting ready to go to bed Dad came up and started talking to me about school.  He said that next year I hadn’t better think of driving back and forth. He ask me how I came out in Chem.  I told him the straight facts and did I get a surprise when he asked if I wanted to take some other course. It ended by him telling me to inquire at Boulder and Ft. Collins about Mechanical Engineering.  This is rather hard to explain in a letter but I will tell you all about it in my next letter, or the next time I see you. I am coming in Wednesday night and if your home I will tell you then.  Please don’t mention this until I talk to you as there are some facts I don’t like to write in a letter. 

            I hope some of the board members don’t walk in tonight as some of the fellows are throwing a party and it might be embarrassing.  I don’t know what is going on, but I have an idea.

            Well honey I will have to close as it is getting late and I still have some work to do.

 Love,
Walt

I believe Walt was studying some kind of geology or surveying discipline at the School of Mines because he has mentioned having to make maps and of having to do some field work.  An excerpt from one letter says:

           Well here it is the end of the first day.  Today we had a problem in differential leveling which Redmond and I have just finished calculating.  I had to make a mistake in the field so we had to check it all over.


In the same letter, Walt tells Gertie about a good grade he got on a quiz….I thought it was funny:

            In our first lecture the prof gave us our quizzes back and was I surprised when I got a 96.  No fooling! Boy I made some good guesses.

I hope I discover more information about Walt & Gertie as I continue this project, and you can be sure I will share my discoveries here!

Pre-WWII Love Letters: The best yard-sale discovery I ever made!

1939 Hallmark Valentine's Day card

1939 Hallmark Valentine’s Day card

Dearest Gertie,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am always thinking of you. Honey, my work has stacked up so that I haven’t time to write a letter. Tomorrow I have two Quizzes so will have to do lots of studying tonight.

Sunday we went skiing as scheduled and ran into a snow storm. It snowed so hard that you couldn’t see where you were going, which made the driving difficult. I met Jay Nelson and Carl Ward up there and they looked like they were frozen.

If you come home this week end, and would care to go to the dance they are having one at school.

I had a talk with the Dean this afternoon, and will probably have to drop D.G. to keep from flunking it.

Well honey I will have to close and get some of my studies.

Love,

Walt

These words were written over 78 years ago by a smitten Walt to his sweetheart Gertie. The note was written on a small blank card and is not dated except for “Tuesday”. I’ve copied it exactly, including punctuation.

This card is part of a collection of letters that I (accidentally?) came into possession of some five or six years ago after a day of shopping at garage sales.

On this particular day my husband had agreed to come along. He enjoys the “hunt” as much as I do and I enjoy his company when he can spare the time to go with me. Usually I look for good books to add to my “books waiting to be read” box. Sometimes I find nice things for the house. One of the best bargains I ever found at a yard sale was four 3-pc sets of the Lennox Christmas china that match some sets that I already own. I also have been known to collect items for my “someday grandchildren” box…..such as nice little tea sets, Lincoln logs or wooden blocks, teddy bears, army men, etc. (If and when our grandchildren finally come, we’ll be ready!)

I remember it was towards the end of our yard-sale venture that day, because we were in the neighborhoods located across the busy main street that bordered our neighborhood. We stopped at a sale and both of us began browsing the “merchandise”. I came across a large box full of crafting odds & ends. Being an aspiring crafter (depending on whatever has my attention at the time) I began to dig through the box. My husband, not wanting to wait for me to pull out particular items that I might want, offered to buy the whole box for one price to which the owner of the sale agreed. My husband hefted the box into the car and we went home.

The box sat in the garage for a couple of days before I found the time to bring it into the house and begin to go through the contents. I don’t really remember at this point what else was in the box, but I do remember that at the bottom of the box was a smaller blue box. I lifted it out and opened it up, and found inside a collection of letters. I quickly scanned through them and realized these were old letters written before WWII from “Walt” to his sweetheart “Gertie”. Some of the letters were dated, and many were not. The dates ranged from 1935 – 1940….five years of letters written by Walt to Gertie.

I immediately showed the letters to my husband. We took the box of letters and drove back to the area where the yard sale was held the previous weekend. I was hoping that I might see a house with a pile of trash out by the curb waiting to be picked up which would help us pin-point exactly which house it was that held the yard sale. But as we drove around and around we could not remember which house it was where we bought the box of craft items, and we could not find any evidence of the yard sale in the neighborhood. We finally went home, still in possession of the letters. I stored the letters in my office, thinking that I would “someday” try to solve the mystery of Walt & Gertie.

Fast-forward these many years later. I have recently retired and now have lots of free time on my hands. So I retrieved the box of letters from their safe place and this week I have begun to read them. When Walt remembered to date the letters was a wonderful benefit because I can put them in order for continuity. But many of the letters are not dated so it is much harder to figure out where they go in the timeline of their story.

I am getting such a kick out of this project because it is fun to read Walt’s words in that day’s style/slang (“keeping my chin up”, “one of the fellows”, “give me some more dope about the dance”….) He signs some of the letters “Your Bunny Duck” which must have been Gertie’s pet name for Walt. Additionally, some of the letters were written on “stationery” from hotels around Colorado & New Mexico and the hotel stationery is so quaint and old-fashioned. The amenities they advertise on the top of the page make me laugh: “Rooms with and without bath rates” or “European Plan $1 up” (The Star Hotel in Glenwood Springs, CO); “Radio In Every Room”, “Fireproof” and “Artesian Water” (El Monte Hotel in Monta Vista Colorado.) (“Fireproof”??? That was an added bonus???) <smile>

Stay tuned for more installments of the love story of Walt & Gertie here in my blog! I’m looking forward to learning more about them…..I hope you are too!