Sunday, October 25, 2009

Connections Just Keep Making Ends Meet

SAN DIEGO – This column was about to be the dreaded moment for me.
I have prepared for such a moment with piles of notes and references to plow through and avoid the problems it presented.

The moment?

Sitting down with a column deadline approaching, I discovered I didn’t know what to write. This occurred last week. My preparations did no good. I didn’t know what to write.
Then just before trying to invent something, I opened my “Facebook” on the internet. My niece, Kate Hansen, had posted a photo of my mother, Estelle Jewell, with her great grandson, Leo Hansen, on their visit to Lebanon last week.

Lebanon Connections

It is a beautiful photograph, a link to what has been and what will be. Leo, my grand nephew, is connected to Lebanon just as Sam, my grandson was connected two years ago. I’m sure my brother hopes just as much as I hope our grandsons will remain connected to Lebanon. It is a good place to have connections.

I was in Palm Springs when I experienced my writer’s block and saw the photograph. I wrote last year about our crazy annual desert golf weekend. Even with another year to gain some sense, I and several golf chums drove there from San Diego. We played two rounds on Thursday because it was only 105 (with 20 percent humidity). Since it was 111 on Friday and Saturday, we only played one round each day.

A Navy Connection

In addition to insane golf, the trip here afforded another connection. The doctor, Frank Kerrigan, who was on my last ship, the “U.S.S. Yosemite” settled in La Quinta about twenty years ago. Frank and I became fast friends on our 1983 deployment to the Indian Ocean, and we remain close.

As usual, we spent the evening over a good meal catching up on each other’s adventures and talking sports. This year, we added his son, an eleven year old, to the mix. The connections grow.

A Marine Connection

On my way home Saturday, I stopped in an even hotter spot. Twenty-Nine Palms, the Marine Corps base, is the temporary home of a relative. Renee Hoskins is my cousin’s granddaughter. Nancy Orr Schwarze grew up in Chattanooga. Our families traveled to and fro over the mountains almost monthly to spend weekends together.

Nancy lives in Cocoa Beach, FL, and Renee’s family is in upper Michigan. It was nice to connect with a relative I had never met, especially one so dedicated to serving our country as Renee. She finished Marine boot camp in July and is at Twenty-Nine Palms for further training.

Another Navy Connection

Then just as I sat down to write the column, an email flew out of nowhere onto my computer screen. The sender was Allen Ernst. Although it had been almost 40 years since we had any contact, Allan had somehow found my email address. And we connected.

Allen had been my leading sonarman on the “U.S.S. Hawkins where I served as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer. He remembered me well. He recalled the stories I told about grave digging in Cedar Grove Cemetery, and the worst liberty I ever had when the ship went to Ocho Rios, Jamaica for its liberty weekend during refresher training in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Patriotic Connections

So the connections mounted up. Except for the connection between my mother and her great grandson, the other connections inter-related with a theme of military service.

And last Friday, we remembered 9/11. I found it fitting the connections were related to service to our country.

I am proud of Allen Ernst for his service to the Navy. For two years, he was invaluable to me as a member of the ASW team on the “Hawkins.”

I am proud to call Frank Kerrigan, who remains a dedicated medical professional, and provided incredible care to members of our Navy through three tours.

I am most proud of Renee Hoskins, who like many friends and their family members in Lebanon, has dedicated herself to serving our country. Her next tour will in all likelihood put her in harm’s way. She is a courageous young woman.

And all of us, in our own ways, rededicated ourselves to remembering those who tragically lost their lives on 9/11.

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