Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make


DiAndGeneBeckstrom

Perhaps it’s my age.

In recent years I’ve been accumulating some new friends, like Gene Beckstrom above.

I met Gene a few short years ago at a Navy ship reunion in 2013. Gene was a WW-II Navy veteran who served from 1943-46 on one of those small destroyers – they call them “tin cans” because that’s kind of how they are built. Fast but fragile when under attack by enemy ships or a howling sea.  But the young men aboard were as tough as steel.

Then in 1946 Gene joined the Army, and in June 1950 his unit was called to the Pusan Perimeter to stave off the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Gene was  a Combat Engineer and fought that brutal war up and down the Korean peninsula.

Gene served 20 years in the Army, including a short stint in Vietnam.

On retirement Gene went back to school and became a Baptist pastor serving the northern Minnesota border region where he and his wife started 19 ministries over a 25 year span.

You can’t help but fall in love with these guys … these guys from that “greatest generation.” They saved freedom in the world by pushing back … by resisting  the tyrannies of their day.  Pushing back and resoundly defeating Fascism, Nazism and Communism.

I put Gene on my call list and would call him now and then. Around Christmas time I got my phone out to call a few of these old friends. I knew that one of those times I would dial and there would be no answer.

As I picked up my phone, Gene’s was the first number. I knew and was thinking it at the time I dialed “one of these times I would call and Gene wouldn’t be there.”

These are the Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make.

SamThomas1SamThomas2

Sam Thomas served on the USS Porterfield DD-682 with Gene Beckstrom through those many sea battles of the South Pacific. I met Sam at that 2013 ship reunion.

Sam, as far as I can tell was the founder of the Balch/Porterfield reunion association and had attended 40 straight reunions to 2015. He called me a month or so prior to the 2016 reunion and told me his body just wouldn’t allow him to make 41.

I talked with Sam just after learning of Gene’s passing late in 2016, and then again just a week or two prior to his passing in January 2017.  A real gentleman … a friend and a shipmate although we served on Porterfield two decades apart.

These are the Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make.

Bitter-sweet friendships. Sweet in knowing them … bitter in knowing the friendship would be short.

Don Johnson – March 2017

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