Daddy’s Home by George L. FisherIn honor of Veterans Day, I give you a third helping of George…. my great friend and school-mate (even though we graduated 9 years apart…LONG story!). I offered this guest post a few years ago and reprised it for Memorial Day in 2011. This is just TOO GOOD not to share…..AGAIN! Indulge me friends and if you haven’t read this… you are in for a HUGE treat! If you have, you KNOW this second or third helping of George and his unique and colorful way of telling a story is ALWAYS worth the time to read and share! Veterans Day is a PERFECT time to thank all of my friends and loved ones who have served…. All my GOLDEN BOOTS friends (you KNOW who you are!), My father the late John H. Todd for his service in the Army Air Corp, My uncle the late Richard Thompson who served in the Navy and Coast Guard (retired), My brothers, Johnny W. Todd and James David Todd who both served in the US Navy (and David still serves as a DOD employee in Japan), my daughter’s father, Retired Commander Michael Gray McQuaig who retired after 28 years in service to the US Navy VP Community, and of course my friend LTC George Fisher who served GA Army National Guard- Iraq Vet (as you will read) and continues to serve to this day! There are others too numerous to mention here but I want to honor their service to our country. A sincere “thank you” from this former Navy Wife…. I understand service all too well! I chose the title for this post “Daddy’s Home”. I believe you will enjoy it as much as I did he recounts the story of his homecoming from Iraq a few years ago. Read, laugh, cry and enjoy!
I dare don’t take one morsel of it for granted—And memories come flooding back of how it is when you’re “away” and the one thing that matters most is HOME…
For all you VETERANS, and especially my 48th Friends 8000 miles away in harms way–I am thinking of you, your families, and heres hoping that all of you will have the homecoming that I was fortunate to have just a few years ago—–just hang on folks, youre almost there! We love and miss you all.
(The below from my journal—pardon the grammar, syntax, etc…)
….And so it was, on the 11th day of May, 2006, we watched the sunrise at 30,000 feet, and then began our descent over the greatest place I know—Georgia.
Coming in over Savannah, you could see the Savannah River going out into the Atlantic Ocean, and all the wetlands in between. We saw downtown Savannah, and the Riverfront, where we have consumed many adult beverages and negotiated the cobblestones. About the time we get a visual of the span of the Bridge leading into South Carolina, the flaps and landing gear come down. The movie on the video screen is the latest Harry Potter flick, and no one seems to mind that we do not get to see its end. Far as I can figure, Hocus Pocus Harry gets out of yet another death defying scrape with the monsters and will live to see puberty.
None of that matters now.
The plane, full of the buzz of conversation, now becomes eerily quiet. Anticipation has filled the cabin and has found its way into our larynxes, which have rendered us speechless. All we hear is the whining of the turbines of these four huge jet engines, the flaps adjusting, the leading edge slats, and the landing gear. The stewardesses have “prepared the cabin for landing” as instructed by the Pilot…..there is nothing left to do now but attempt to contain the million and one thoughts going on in our heads and listen for the squeal of tires hitting the tarmac.
We are now flying at 2000 feet I guess. Lower and lower, so you can see the types of cars on the road, the roof of the waffle House and Wal Mart, and even read the signs on the highway. Another slight turn and lower still, until we are aligned with the runway—it is deathly quiet. Lower….lower, nose up, engines whining…….We are all waiting for the same thing—
The Cabin EXPLODES in cheers. Hugs, high fives, and Rebel Yells expound. Had I not known better one would have thought there to be an exorcism and a couple of castrations being performed back in tourist class.
If I had to use one word to describe the feeling when those wheels touched the ground: indescribable.
If I person had a window seat, their nose was pressed up to the plexiglass, and more times than not there were two faces sharing the glass with another two people looking at the backs of their heads attempting to peer thru what would become available.
When I finally got my chance to look out the window, we saw lots of flags and people waving —it struck me as strange because I thought all of that was going to happen at Ft. Stewart, which was still a 45 minute bus ride away—one of the first people I saw was Col David Young—he is just like family, and just seeing him put a lump in my throat—the first of many lumps on this day.
Everyone lined up to walk down the steps of the plane onto the tarmac—being greeted by Gen. Rodeheaver, Gen. Ross, and several others—Salutes and hugs continued, and if I had only one word to describe it all: indescribable.
We walked thru the receiving line and directly into a line where we turned in our weapons— FINALLY! I only carried a pistol, so I haven’t a leg to stand on when its time to complain, but man alive were we tired of carrying and keeping up with these things.
After turn in of the weapons, we went thru another receiving line of the local USO volunteers, waving flags and telling us welcome home—what a wonderful organization the USO is…and when I got to thinking about those wonderful folks coming out there to greet our troops, lump number 2 showed up.
Inside the building we were basically herded until we could make sure we had all our folks accounted for…It was during this that I decided I needed to shave—unlike the rest of the troops, I opted to check all of my bags and didn’t carry on anything I couldn’t cram in my pockets—consequently, I couldn’t get to my electric razor—when I asked around I found that one of the fellows had an extra, and shaving cream to boot—so I hurried off to the latrine and hacked away enough to get the stubble removed and two fresh cuts on my chin and neck—oh well.
As we prepared to load the busses, another good thing—we were pulled out of the formation and into an awaiting van—compliments of the boys on the advanced party—some small talk and an iced down cooler of drinks (Ok, it was beer)awaited us on the short ride back to Ft. Stewart—
My mind raced as I thought about Sue and the kids—I had called them only with minimal notice when we found out we would be flying sooner—they had planned on Saturday and here it was Thursday—Sue had very little time to do much more than throw the kids in the car and head south—I sure hoped they had made it ok—I had a lot of friends and family who I know would have been there had I mentioned it, but I had decided—at the risk of hurt feelings— that I wanted to see just “my crew”—the others would wait until I got back home—and with the hassles of getting on Ft Stewart and trying to find ones way around—it would have driven everyone else nuts—I was willing to make my crew go thru that but not the rest of them—
We got to Ft. Stewart a few minutes before the busses did, and parked on the side of the parade field where all the troops assembled—across the field we could look thru the bushes and see all the families, the dignitaries—the streamers, the flags, the band playing—it was a sea of red white and blue, and if I had to use one word to describe it all: indescribable.
A few minutes later the busses begin to arrive, and they all start blowing the horns—the band is playing, and the bleachers and all its surrounding area have all gone berserk—We are a good football field away and it is a sight to behold—the Busses drive around the perimeter of the Parade field and unload all the rest of our troops—We are very quickly mustered into a formation—we are lined up, with LTC Jeff Edge as the formation leader—we are marched onto the field, attempting to stay in step, abreast of each other, dressed right and covered down, etc. We are all hollering at each other trying to keep each other in step—which is like the Keystone Cops—it was a riot—
Maj Marshall Rich ends up being the base and pivot man in our gaggle—somehow in the chaos, as we swing around the trees that border the Parade field we amble out into full view of the bleachers and all those families—the screams we heard earlier pale in comparison to what we hear now—Divine intervention ensues and we all step as one—the left foot down on the heavy beat of the drum—automatically heads up, chests out, and how in the WORLD did I end up in the front rank?!?
It all is happening in a whirlwind, and we close in on the crowd…
I scan as fast as my eyes looking for my crew…Last time I saw jumping and screaming like this was at a Hank Jr concert…but this was entirely different….this had all the characteristics of one of those defining moments in a persons life—one of those images one takes to ones grave…..I look as hard as I know how from underneath my cap, pulled down to keep the glare out of my eyes— starting from left, then the right—I see a tall brown headed lady jumping up and down with a sign screaming her head off—next to her is a young man in a red white and blue shirt who is in dire need of a haircut—a little blonde headed girl stands a few feet from them—behind them I see my wife Susan—I see her, and a split second later realize the tall brown haired lady is my 16 yr old daughter Amanda, and the young man in dire need of a Barber is none other than mans best friend Joe, my 14 yr old bass master—Lyndsay, the third and youngest of my crew, seems to have grown a foot and completes this vision as my eyes brim with tears—
Amazingly, I have spotted these 4 needles in the haystack—-I was in the middle of a defining moment—I knew it was a defining moment because at the same moment I spotted all of them, lump number 3, the biggest one of all, rose up from my heart to my throat. It made my ears ring, and my heart pound. Adrenaline pumped thru me to the point I know I could have bounced bullets off my chest. I thought I was about to bust.
Being in formation, all I could manage to do, though, was grin—an ear to ear one, and one a mortician couldn’t remove. It was like my face was smiling, laughing and crying at the same time. I knew everyone else’s face was doing the same thing so there was no need to worry about it.
Everything is a blur—that’s what happens when one is on cloud nine——Jeff saluted and officially reported to Gen Ross— Then the National Anthem was played while everyone paid their respects.
Gen. Ross made a very short welcome home speech. It may have been a minute long—he KNEW it didn’t need to be any longer…
Then something strange happened….
What was supposed to happen—After Gen Ross’ comments, the Army song was to be played, THEN the families would be cut loose to greet their loved ones. This was to happen AFTER the playing of the ARMY SONG. The Families had been told this and I believe we were told the same thing—but like I said, it was all a blur…
What ACTUALLY happened—After General Ross’ brief comments, he mentioned that his remarks were concluded— At the precise moment he said “That’s all I have…”
These three kids— all of whom belong to me—BOLTED from the confines of the throng of families and distinguished guests, as if they had been shot out of a cannon.
(It is important to note that no one else in this entire huge crowd had budged—nary a one, save for three redneck kids from Macon)
In a flash I could see all three—eyes wide open, with grins on their faces as big as mine—hauling ass toward me—Joe, followed by Lyndsay, followed by Amanda…I attempted to wave them off but in that fraction of a second I had to decide what was more important—wave them off or prepare for the impending train wreck. Their combined weight exceeded mine by about a hundred pounds and had I not braced myself accordingly, I may have been a combat casualty right there on the Parade field.
I heard someone in the rank behind me say “Here they come” and that’s when I got it full blast—-WHUMP….WHUMP……WHUMP….as each of those redneck Fisher kids plowed into me-Joe having launched himself in the air a good eight feet prior….
I had my arms full of Fisher kids, and all we could do was cry..
I may have even told them to go back into the stands until the damn Army song was finished..IT was all a blur and If I had only one word to describe it:
A few moments into what I think is the bestest group hug of all time, I realize I can’t see much because of Amanda’s hair all over the place—She is crying, and I have her head against my shoulder, and I can only feel Joes head and ball cap under my armpit—I open my eyes and see a few pairs of shoes, and for the first time I speak—
I couldn’t feel or find her in the scrum—as I am looking down I see this little body and blonde head backing into the entanglement shoving herself thru an opening, tilting her head back and yelling “I’m Right Here!!”
Long Story a tad longer—The Photographers and News people saw my little Rednecks break ranks and followed suit, the end result which was having my defining moment captured in pictures and our pictures on the front pages of several newspapers—one of which was the Moultrie Observer—my Grandfathers hometown (and his favorite) newspaper.
The family and I all drove home, where the neighbors had hung a “WELCOME HOME GEORGE” banner across the front porch and the front yard was festooned with 145 American Flags—my cup runneth over some more.
The next afternoon I was lying on my back deck in the hammock looking at the bluest sky I ever saw, contrasted by the wonderful green grass and trees of Middle Georgia. This was unreal. I must have died and went to heaven—-and If I only had one word to describe how it felt: Indescribable.
I glanced down at my watch and noticed I still had it set 9 hours ahead—Iraqi time.
I pulled the stem out and reset my watch. In the background I could hear Sue knocking around in the kitchen preparing supper. I felt my eyelids getting heavy and drifted off to sleep.
I was home.
**********UPDATE: View George’s photo on the following MSN link (pic #13) WOO HOO!!!!
Other related articles: http://www.qando.net/?p=8599 (this is hearbreaking of a young woman grieving at her boyfriend/ husband’s grave. please view!