Wednesday, April 19, 2006

…And We Lose Another

We buried another veteran today—a good friend of mine—in the American Cemetery on the former Clark Air Base.

Jim did his military years, about 25 of them, in the United States Navy. By the time I met him late in 2002, he was already in his late 70s and in a physical downward spiral. The poor health he suffered through during his last years can mostly be attributed to his days in Vietnam. Exposure to Agent Orange led to his diabetes, and that led to some pretty unkind cardiovascular conditions, which finally toppled him last week.

Like a lot of us vets, Jim never stopped being “in.” I was helping him with a disability claim against the ever-pissy VA, and I was struck by his fervor for an idea he had concerning his beloved U.S. Navy. He told me about an officer he had worked with during his last years on active duty. It seems that this “0” was somewhat ahead of his time when it came to management style. Jim raved about this man, and how he actually LISTENED to his men, no matter their rank, before issuing orders. He went on about how high the morale was, and how effective it worked, especially when everyone felt that their opinions were valued.

I nodded knowingly as Jim spoke glowingly of this “renaissance officer,” under whom he had served so enthusiastically in the late 1960s. Much of what Jim described, I had already been taught in all of my professional military schools—in ’83 at the Yokota AB Leadership School, again in ’85 at the Kadena AB NCO Academy, and once and for all in ’97 at the Senior NCO Academy at Gunter AFB, Alabama.

Jim wanted to share the wonderful experiences he had had while working with this enlightened officer, and he wanted me put them in the format of an open letter to the “brass,” so that the entire United States Navy could benefit from what he had learned during that cherished time. I had to carefully explain to him that writing his letter was no longer necessary, since most of the services already operated as he described, at least theoretically, to some degree.

Remember, Jim had served proudly in the “brown shoe navy” during WWII, Korea and Vietnam. By the time I met him, he was already retired for well over 30 years. Yet in his mind, he was still IN! He still wanted to contribute; he was still worried about HIS Navy, and wanted the best for it. I get emotional now thinking about it. I have no doubt that HIS United States Navy was immeasurably better because of his service. Anchors Aweigh and God speed Jim!

9 comments:

Ed Abbey said...

I've always felt Tom Brokaw hit the nail on the head when he labeled Jim and others as the "Greatest Generation."

PhilippinesPhil said...

I love my WWII vets. As I go about helping my folks, these wonderful old guys rarely voice harsh criticism of their country. Believe me, I hear plenty of bitterness from some of the younger fellas. I guess the depression-era generation that fought and won WWII just don't tend to moan and whine. I'm a perfect example of a complainer, especially when it comes to the VA! Sorry Judith!

Anonymous said...

Phil:
Very nice piece on Jim Mahoney, and it lets your blog readers see what Clark Cemetery looks like.
Later you might do a special on the cemetery itself and talk about how the Post is taking care of it.
I knew Jim over 20 eyars and seem to remember him talking about that Naval officer.
Jim had a bulldog grip on life and didn't want to let go. He cheated death at least 3-4 times that I remember. As bad as he was near the end I wondered if he might not pull off another miracle. Unfortunately that was not to be.
Thanks for attending the burial service, and for caring enough to write about my good friend Jim Mahoney. Tom Elliott

Jonathan said...

I love Vets. and have made point to always show my respect for any era veteran (we live not to far from a VA hospital back in California).

they are some of the finest men and women I have had the honor to know. Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine.

even here in england, I can't escape US military personel (or British, as I am staying with the boxing champion of her majesty's Army), in that one of my class mates is an Iraq Version Two vet, a real "hell yeah!" Truck commander/top gunner on what he called "bookend" of either the front trucks, or the last truck which always tend to get hit by ambush.

he is one of the most insightful, albeit an overtly machavelian bravado to the point of having the instructor almost throttle him in lecture.

I am proud of any man or woman who serves our nation, or our allies' in the call for liberty and freedom, be they American, British, Israeli, or Australian.

Amadeo said...

Phil:

Heard this from my favorite local AM radio KSFO. There is a group that has an ongoing project doing documentaries on veterans of World War II. This is their site:

http://www.ksfo.com/goout.asp?u=http://veteranshistory.org

I heard the guy doing the documentaries mention about looking to interview veterans from the Bataan Death March. Now I thought to myself what better source than those who may still be there with their memories of first-hand accounts of the ordeal.

The site shows some contact numbers, and email. It probably is worth a look and see.

PhilippinesPhil said...

You ARE a good man Jonathan!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Amadeo, I've spoken to several Death March and WWII POW survivors. These guys are truly fascinating and deserving of our respect. Read my post where I wrote of an interview I had with a very special WWII veteran: Amazing Survival, Inspiring Courage

watson said...

Phil, is the cemetrery for American servicemen who are in the Philippines? Just thinking out loud, that they would have wanted to be buried in the States where their family is? This reminds me of my grandmother who chose to be buried in Marinduque where she was born and raised.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Wat, the cemetery is now only for US servicemen and no longer allows family members as it once did. US servicemen include WWII Filipino veterans, even if they did not opt for American citizenship when they were offered it. I don't know if you realized it or not, but there is a link at the beginning of the post. It takes you to a site about the American Cemetery at Clark including its history.



As far as being buried at home vs here, there are many reasons they choose to be interred here. For one, its expensive to be shipped home, unless you have your remains flown back after cremation. Many veterans have lived here for much of their lives and consider this place as much their home as any. Others prefer to be buried with their comrades.