Skip to comments.(Vanity) My Memorial Day Tribute to a Veteran
Posted on 05/28/2007 10:56:13 PM PDT by girlangler
I know it's late, and I shouldn't be up this time of night, let alone posting.
But I want to share this story, because it is the story of an American military veteran, one who is very special to me.
I have been busy lately, and have let a lot of my personal responsibilities lapse. About 11:30 p.m. I did what I meant to do earlier in the day, before I got wrapped up in other things.
I called my fishing buddy, a man I probably will never get to fish with again. I know he is up late at night because he is suffering with pain from some old injuries and cancer. He recently told me he can't sleep nights and I could call him late.
Back in the 1940s he was a farm boy from Tennessee, had never been 25 miles from his homeplace. He could shoot a squirrel from a tree a mile away (maybe a little exaggeration). It was during WWII and his life would be changed forever.
He ended up in the Pacific theatre, with the 1st Wildcat Division, Company F.
I met him when he was in his late 70s (He will be 85 this month), when I took my Mom to visit her cousin to research the family history. This veteran married what he still refers to as the sweetest little mountain girl he'd ever seen while on leave after basic training.
This old veteran and I became friends quickly, because we could talk about fishing. He claimed he could outfish me, and I, being a dedicated angler, claimed I could outfish him.
After his wife died he came to visit me often. He had access to every private pond in the county, and we decided we'd put our bragging to the test, see who was the best angler.
We spent many days on one very productive pond. I was learning to flyfish, and he had spent more years than I'd lived fooling the wily old bass.
Just a couple of years ago we'd go fishing, and he had this crazy technique that he invented before Wacky Worms were the hottest thing on the professional tournament fishing trail.
It was, well, a waky worm. He'd take a large (always black) plastic worm, and hook it through the middle on a large bass hook (with no weight) and sit in one spot on the bank of that pond and always reel in several big bass.
I'd go to another spot, take out that fly rod and tie on a popping bug.
He'd laugh about me wearing my arm out, when all he had to do was cast that huge plastic worm out and let it sink. He'd promise a bass would take his offering, and I'd be working -- not fishing -- when he outfished me.
Well, the big bluegills in that pond like popping bugs. I'd catch dozens of them to his one bass. I like catching, and I guess he preferred fishing to catching.
When I talked with him tonight I told him I'd go down in history for catching the MOST fish, and he said he would be remembered for catching the BEST fish.
I can't argue with that.
The last time we fished together was last summer. I live about two hours from where he does, and something spoke to my heart and told me to go fish with him.
We went to our special pond, and I could tell he was in pain. I ran around the pond, casting to those hungry, naive bluegills. He sat for a while in a lawn chair I had put out for him.
But I could tell it would probably be our last fishing trip together. He was in pain, but wouldn't let that get in the way of fishing with me. I lied and told him I was tired, we best go home now. I could tell he was relieved, a sure sign that this would be our last fishing trip together.
As we drove home, he told me how he received a Silver Star in WWII, a Purple Heart, and other medals.
This fishing buddy was one of two sharpshooters who ended up in a firefight with a nest of Japaneze machine gunners on an island in the Pacific. His company was under intense fire, and these Japs were picking off American boys in droves. His commander sent him and the other boy in to take out the enemy, because they had what it took (as far as shooting) to pick off a squirrel from a mile away.
These mountain boys knew how to shoot.
As my friend told me about his experience so many years ago, he had tears in his eyes, especially when he described how the other sharpshooter was killed. He and the other young man used their shooting skills to pick off, one by one, those Japs that outnumbered his squadron three to one, and he saved a lot of American boys lives' in the process.
He still, after all these years, don't understand why such a big deal was made about that, how he ended up with a Silver Star. Heck, I'm not even sure he knows how significant it is to have that Silver Star.
But I do, and I called him tonight and made sure he knows I know and appreciate it. I told him there are people who enjoy liberty and freedom across the world because of his actions that day, and the actions of many like him.
Of course, after I told him that, I had to remind him that I caught MORE fish than him through the years we have fished together.
And he didn't fail to remind me that he always got the BIGGEST fish.
Thank you girlangler for posting this.
What a beautiful & touching story ~ thank you so much for sharing it with us. He truly sounds like an amazing man...
“and something spoke to my heart and told me to go fish with him.”
I very much believe that was God talking to you....
Very moving girlangler. Thanks for posting.
Jack Leroy Stewart - 9th Inf. Div. 1943-1945
This Memorial Day ,2007 ,marks the passing of Jack Leroy Stewart, war hero, teacher, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. With his soul but a few feet above our heads, we remember his life and are grateful for it. I can recount many of his accomplishments, but the real marks of a man, are the memories that he leaves in the hearts of those he touches. My memories of Jack are filled with his quiet courage that must have carried him through hundreds of battlefields which we can now only imagine. If you talk to anyone who knew him, they will tell you that his love for his family consumed him. He knew how valuable life is, and he refused to waste a minute of it. He was always there, selflessly, for his family. We loved him for that.
He and God must have had a very special relationship. I bet there were many times when he said: Now God? I am ready to come home, and God answered: Not yet Jack, I have other work for you. On the cold, long nights in the mountains of North Africa when the outcome of the War was uncertain, he must have asked that question. On the cold spring night off the coast of England(Operation Tiger/Slapton Sands) when his landing craft was sunk from beneath him, he must have asked that question. When all of his friends lay dead and dying around him in Normandy(hedgerow country) and his blood graced the ground, I am sure that he must have asked that question. In the frozen rice paddies of Korea when the warm Georgia summer must have seemed a very long way off, again, he must have asked that question. But still his Country called him, and he became the adviser the Kings Guard in Thailand. That country was a fragile democracy and he worked against the communist guerrillas in remote jungles unknown to the rest of us. Could any man have done more in the defense of freedom? No one ever carried that blue badge, with the long rifle, on their chest with more dignity. The badge of a combat infantryman has never been more well-earned.
He knew what it took to keep us a free nation. Instead of putting away his uniform he entered another career, teaching children to become officers and inspiring them to lead men in times of war. He inspired his first born to follow after him, and Richard led with distinction in the air cavalry above Vietnam(slick pilot) and then on to a career in the Army. He inspired me to be a better man and to complete a career in the Air Force. How many hundreds of others relied on his strength and honor to serve their Country? We will never know; but there were many.
When Jack married Anne in England, they were both officers in an Army (9thInf.Div)that was preparing to embark on one of the epic battles of world history. They took time away from the challenges ahead of them to find a little church in the green hills of western England to begin the love that has lasted till this day, and will last beyond. When I visited that church many years later, I could still feel what they must have felt there. The Army nurse and the Company Commander must have had a lot of faith in God to make that leap into the unknown at that dark time in our history. Their faith was rewarded, and they lived to raise a fine family of three men and one fine lady, whom I have loved for almost forty years. They welcomed me into their family, and my life is richer for it. Our children and their children are blessed with the quality of Jacks life that is passed on to them through our memories.
Anyone who can ask the question: Can a warrior enter into the Kingdom of Heaven? — Never knew Jack. He endured the deprivations of war, and the pain of its losses, tragedies and the tears. He put his life on the line so that others might live in freedom. This Nation owes him its gratitude and its love. This warrior has died, but he will not be forgotten. Today, God finally said: Jack it is time for you to come home now.
Col. Jack L. Stewart will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next month ....
Rest in Peace sir
God bless your fishing buddy, and thank God He blessed us with wonderful people like him to protect our country! :*)
My Dad was also a WWII vet, met my Mom while on maneuvers in TN before he shipped out overseas. They married right after the war in 1945, and stayed together “til death did them part.”
Dad passed away last September, followed by Mom in December.
Both of them loved to fish. I, however, was too hyper as a kid to get into it. I didn’t develop a love for fishing until about 8 years ago. Two years ago, I took my (then) new boat home and took Mom and Dad out fishing. It is a trip I’ll always remember. Mom took down sick shortly after, and then Dad.
Don’t know about bluegill and bass, never freshwater fished in my life. I grew up on the coast of NC (family has been there since the 18th century) and now live in Norfolk VA. I have a pair of pictures from 1961 when I was 2, I’ll put them in the next reply.
My Dad was a 22 year old LT (j.g.) in command of U.S. LCT 457 on UTAH Beach. He had bulldozers and TNT on his boat. A German round hit his boat, right in the little office he had. Luckily, he was not there at the time. His jacket, draped across the back of his chair, was shredded, and several cartons of cigarettes in the locker were 'turned to snuff'.
Beautiful story, girlangler. Thanks for sharing this.
Pinging my fishing and military supporting friends.
I had called my veteran friend late last night, and he kept me on the phone for two hours talking.I wrote this through tears, as I know he won’t be in this world long.
I finally told him, “I guess I better go, don’t want to keep you up all night.”
He assured me he wouldn’t be sleeping, as he is in severe pain. So we talked another hour.
I just had to share my feelings about a wonderful man. We are truly blessed to have men like him in this country.
I can’t decide whether you are more lucky to know him, or he is more lucky to know you.
“This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new. I don’t.....this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.”
Beautiful. Thank you FRiend.
What a great tribute! Thank your friend for us.
I love these type of stories that wrap up the heroic deeds of the common folk who serve in our military, along with the reasons that they served, be that for big stuff like freedom and liberty or the “little stuff” like the pretty girls in the hills and the right to enjoy the best fishing hole in the county. We are blessed to live in such an incredible country!
What a great geration of Americans. God bless them.
Leo ~ that also was an absolutely amazing & wonderful tribute to a true hero. Heaven must be full of honorable & valiant soldiers just like Jack Leroy Stewart, and we are very lucky to have had them serve our great nation while they were here.
God bless, and thank you again for sharing that story....
That was a beautiful eulogy, a testment to the man Jack L. Stewart was. My fishing buddy is such a man.
The best sermon I ever heard was one preached at a WWI soldier’s funeral, and the minister talked about how a tiny hummingbird, which has to beat its wings (he had exact data on this)xx amount of times, and consume xx amount of nectar to travel from Canada to South America, and overcome unsurmountable obstacles along the way.
And then the minister said if God cares for that tiny creature, and gives protection so that many make this trip, he surely cares for us.
When my dying fishing buddy and I were talking on the phone the night I posted this, I told him the story about the sermon.
My vet friend is very brave, and can withstand more than most men, but he chose to tell me about his constant pain, and how he has asked God why he doesn’t go ahead and take him.
I told my buddy God is not through with him yet. My friend has had a huge impact on my life, and many others. And I tried my best to comfort him. I reminded him that every
small creature, and we made in his own image, and God will know when it is his time.
I wish I could cradle my buddy in my arms. I will be making the two hour trek to see him soon, and cook him some of the good old country food his wife used to cook. I am from the same bloodline as she, and I’ve often felt he loved me so much partly because he saw her and her qualities in me. I’m talking about him being like a father to me. He is not kin to be by bloodline, he married into my family.
But he has always treated me like a daughter and a best friend. On our fishing trips he has shared stories with me he has never shared with his own kids, and I will make it a point to share these with his kids.
We have a very special relationship.
I have to go see him soon, and put aside a lot of the other things that have been keeping me from doing so. I want to be there when he crosses over. This really burdens me, because he chose to bless me with his love and friendship, I owe him this and know, for some reason, seeing me again will be a great comfort to him.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you this, fredhead, I pinged you because I wanted to tell you what a precious, cute little boy that was in those pics you posted.
I have a feeling you had the opportunity to have some wonderful, comforting, strong people around you when you were growing up and your life’s values being formed.The lady in the photo (your Mom) has this sly smile like she might be one of those folks with a satisfied mind, the kind of mind that doesn’t require money or material things, could carry her on the knowledge in her heart and mind.
The Carter Family sang a song about that decades ago, a song titled “Satisfied Mind.”
I spent a few years living/working on the N.C. coast, lived in Shallotte, Holden Beach. I met some wonderful folks there.
If you wanted someone to give you a ride in a car somewhere they’d said “I’ll carry you to the store.”
They were good, dependable people. When you were accepted as a friend, you had one heck of a friend.