Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reflections on the passing of a friend and veteran

At 2:20 AM on June 4, 2009, my friend John Gorman passed away.  Born in 1925 it might seem a bit strange I considered John one of my close friends.  But he was and a role model as well.

I met John when I first moved to my house and he was a very friendly neighbor.  Often chatting in the back yard he helped me plant better and when I travelled he often took care of my plants outdoors.  My granddaughter adored him because he would patiently let her "help" him with his planting.  John had avidly collected fossils his entire life and let her look at them and would explain to her in terms a 6 year old could understand what they meant.

John was a very smart man.  Receiving PH. D. in Chemical Engineering he holds many patents and is a fellow with the American Statistical Association and was published extensively in his career.

He was a kind, gentle, smart, and generous with praise for everybody.  I try to live up to his example.

Make no mistake though.. he was a warrior.  He served in the Rangers 2bn in WWII.  He was part of the first special forces of the US Army.  Washout rates were in the 90% range for those who volunteered.  He saw action all the way through Europe in WWII and was ready to go to Japan as he didn't have enough points to go home after VE.

He recently published a book on his WWII experiences.  One part that really got me.. "Colonel Rudder, our battalion commander, said one German wanted to go back and get some of his friends to surrender.  He went back all right, and gave them our exact position, and they shelled the sh*t out of us.  Our company commander was a smart one.  When the Germans surrendered, we immediately moved forward into their positions, leaving the prisoners in our old positions.  The Germans were killing their own.  Such hell."

I say that because John considered himself very lucky.  When diagnosed with Mesothelioma (that he believes he contracted while in Graduate School melting different types of asbestos) John quietly accepted his fate and worked to make sure his affairs were in order.  His comment to me was "I should have died 20 times when I was 18.  I was given 65 years of extra life."

I had the honor of visiting his battle buddies who fell in Europe at the Brittany American Cemetery in St James, France.  I took pictures of the head stones and made a DVD for him of all the pictures I took.  It was my honor to sweat the details and the timing of the music that went into that.  I did it for my friend because I loved him.

This week we have been asked to attend a mission for him.  John asked me himself for when the day came.  I had come home from a long, sweaty, day with about 5oo miles behind me.  John asked what I was doing and after I explained what the Patriot Guard is about he looked at me and asked if we would ride for him when he died.  I am my friend...

Stand down Ranger Gorman...  your mission is complete.

Rangers Lead The Way!