Saturday, November 23, 2013

Requiem For A Marine

Twelve years ago we moved from Houston to our present home in Heaven Central Texas. I haven't looked back. Nothing against the people there - we left behind several good friends - but that city is just too big and crowded for me. Sadly, however, I'm back in Houston today for a funeral.

The father of one of my close friends passed away earlier this week. I met the father through my buddy, who years ago invited me to join him and his family on their deer lease. I came to consider the father as an uncle. Cali (his nickname, short for The California Kid) was one of three older guys who shared the lease with his two sons and me. The three old dudes were a hoot. They played pranks and practical jokes on each other and anyone else around, told sidesplitting stories and jokes, and didn't hesitate to make their opinions known about politicians, the younger generation, and the sorry state of affairs compared to when they were kids.

The other two died a few years ago. Cali hung on, but it was clear he was in failing health and failing spirits. That wonderful old man is finally resting in peace. He and his buddies are probably giving Jesus a hotfoot about now.

There was much more to Cali than fun-loving old timer. He was a long-time happily married man who raised two great sons and a pretty good daughter. He was a successful businessman and was heavily involved in community and charitable activities. He was also first, last, and always, a United States Marine; a decorated combat veteran of WWII.

I may have posted this story before, but it bears repeating. Several years ago when our son was in middle school he was assigned to interview veterans for a history class. The point of the assignment was to get first-hand accounts from actual participants, and then compare those to what the history books said (aside: his history teacher that year was IMO the best teacher I've ever come across - he got the kids really, really interested in history by getting them involved).

Anyway, our son was fortunate enough to interview Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, General Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot during the famous WWII bombing raid on Japan. He also interviewed my father, a WWII combat vet, and Cali. The interviews were video-recorded to show in class.

The first question our boy asked Cali was "Why did you join the Marines?"

Cali got an intense look on his face, stared our son straight in the eye, and without hesitating answered "To kill the God-Damned Japs!"

I thought my wife was going to have apoplexy. Cali's son and I were laughing so hard we almost fell over. Our son didn't know what to do, but like a good budding journalist he went ahead and asked the rest of his questions. Needless to say, we did a little editing on the video before it was turned in.

Here's some excerpts from Cali's obituary.
Retired Major (Cali), USMC, age 92 passed away peacefully on November 15, 2013 ... He is also preceded in death by his two lifelong friends (Arbrey) and (Cabe). The threesome hunted and fished together and shared a lifetime of fun and laughter for over 40 years.

During WWII, (Cali) was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, Amphibious Tractors. He was on the first waves of battle at Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa. On Tarawa, after landing assault troops from his amphibian tractor, commanding a platoon of tractors, he returned to the edge of the coral reef with his crew and noticed that the advance of troops wading ashore was stopped by concentrated enemy fire from three sides. (Cali) and his men with complete disregard for their own safety drove their vehicle between the gunfire and the troops. Using the tractor for a shield and manning the tractor-mounted machineguns to return fire, they were successful in guiding the troops ashore. (Cali) provided overhead fire for the advancing troops until the tractor was demolished. (Cali) received the presidential unit citation, a Purple Heart, and was awarded the Silver Star by Admiral Nimitz. He also received the Navy Commendation Medal for the battle on Saipan.

In May 1945 after 37 months and 12 days Norman was sent home. His war was over. He was immensely proud to be a Marine. He remained in the reserves and retired from the Marine Corp in 1964 attaining the rank of Major.

He loved to hunt and fish and loved auto racing with a passion. He was crazy for the Houston Oilers and furious with Bud Adams when he moved the team to Tennessee.

In lieu of flowers please donate to the Wounded Warrior Project...
Rest In Peace, Cali. You deserve it.


Harper said...

The Greatest Generation, indeed. To have friends, family and a zest for life - without today's constant concern for how you may be judged for the friends you keep, the family you have, or the life you lead. Condolences on your loss, and thanks for sharing some of your memories of this great man.

Old NFO said...

May he rest in peace, and thanks for sharing this story with us...

CenTexTim said...

Thank you both for your kind thoughts.