Category Archives: Interesting people

#RESIST

(Note: matt in a comment, and in a not so subtle way, reminded me that it’s not just the military #resisters who have accomplished great things in the life of American liberty. I have added some examples below: abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, right to life and the labor movement. Perhaps I’ve left out a few.  Is the  ‘pussy hat’  movement on a par in advancing liberty in America? You decide.)

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To all you brave ‘pussy hat’ wearing patriots, let me show you a few patriots who joined a resistance movement against real enemy threats when it really counted.

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And there are other n0n-military #resisters from the past addressing  consequential American policies and laws that were contrary to “ … all men are created equal …”  Thanks to these #resisters, those policies and laws have been corrected in law and in the Constitution, although not necessarily in the hearts and minds of everyone.

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And then there is the labor movement.

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A reminder, or maybe a news flash to some, about those #Resisters you see above …

These folks #resisted true tyrants, true fascists, true Communists   during that terrible time we look back on as the 20th century. Those Communists some of you seem to pine and long over … they killed something on the order of 100 million people, most of them their own fellow citizens.

The descendants of those folks you see above,  … our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters … our friends — stepping up in their own #Resist movement represent something on the order of 1 or 2 percent of our population. Their purpose in #Resisting? To protect you and me in todays still dangerous world.

You may not realize or appreciate, but of the 100 to 110 billion people that have ever lived on this earth, anywhere and at any time, only a small sliver of perhaps some 4 to 5% have ever lived in what we today enjoy as a free society.  Further, most of those 4-5%  have lived in this United States of America, or those nations who have modeled their national political life after the American model of “We the People …

I for one am immensely grateful for those in our past and to those now serving in our military … the #Resistance. As a US Navy slogan puts it … “A Global Force For Good”

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I said it as a young 20 year old sailor in 1964, and I’ll say it again now.

“I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

And I don’t agree with much of what is said in the “resisting” rhetoric on display, and certainly not in the many extra/anti-Constitutional methods employed, but I do support your Constitutional right to say your piece and assemble and petition our government.  

A final bit of advice. Aim your protests in words and ways that stand shoulder to shoulder beside our founding fathers who gave us the privilege of being among that 4-5% living in freedom.  

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   Ronald Reagan

Be among those who keep us from falling into that 95-96% that President Reagan warned about.

 

Don Johnson  — March 2017

Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make

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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.

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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

Sam Jankovich–A Butte Kid Does Well

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“ … I worked in the Leonard mine which was the turning point of my life. I was put in a tunnel and was scared to death. I thought for certain I would not get out alive. I came home and told Patty that if I had to work in the mine we were going to starve. … “

How did this young man, a hard rock miner from Butte Montana, rise from the depths of a mine tunnel to one day stand beside two Presidents and among two National Championship college football teams? From a dirty and dangerous mine to stand beside Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and coaches of the caliber of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson? How did this young man rise from that dark, cold mine shaft to become Chief executive Officer of the New England patriots? How did this man expand a football stadium in Pullman Washington from 24,000 to 39,000 seats – with no cost to the tax payer?

Sam Jankovich came to the surface of the Leonard mine and rose to the top of his chosen profession of athletics. From state championship teams in Butte — to assistant coaching at universities in Montana and Washington — to Athletic Director at Washington State and the University of Miami – to CEO of the Patriots. All along the way earning induction into the Halls of Fame of these institutions.

As the editor of Sam’s memoirs I learned the answers to these questions. Sentence by sentence – paragraph by paragraph – page by page – place to place. I found the answers in words like ‘character’, ‘loyalty’, ‘quality’ and ‘consistency’ bubbling up from the pages. I began to see the character of the man as golden threads woven through the fabric of his life and career. Part of the fabric and yet distinctly visible.

The story of Sam Jankovich is in these pages, but it is not a story of “I”. Rather, it seems subsumed and surrounded by the many stories of the “others” of Sam’s life. You will run across constantly recurring phrases as “… a wonderful man” “ … a wonderful person” “… a dear friend”, “a wonderful woman”

Sam Jankovich is one of the “old timers” I’ve become acquainted or reacquainted with in recent years. Others, along with their stories, have come to me from my US Navy past — some from that “Greatest Generation” of World War II, Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam. One of my Navy shipmates, and a friend, is a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and a three tour Vietnam veteran. Another is a Navy veteran of those many World War II sea-battles in the South Pacific — followed by infantry combat in that very brutal Korean War.

These folks who have lived such consequential lives, and have left behind recollections of their lives, deserve to be remembered. That is why I have become passionate in doing what I can to further those remembrances.

I hope you enjoy the story of one such consequential life – the life of Sam Jankovich.

 

(Click on the book cover below to find Sam)

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Don Johnson – typoist and editor of Sam Jankovich

I Wouldn’t Have Done It That Way

It’s Christmas time again — OH GREAT!! All that Jesus stuff and all.

Ya know King of Kings … savior of the world … Oh little town of Beth… all the glitz and glamor … GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

But have you ever heard about the birth and life of this man called Jesus? I mean the backwoodsy place where he was born, his sordid family history, what his childhood might have been like … and more?

Take a listen to this message and be prepared to hear about the man who would and did and does identify with all of us … no matter our station in life and no matter how lowly we may think of our self.

Click on the image below and then view the sermon — “I wouldn’t have done it that way” to get a glimpse of the man we call Jesus.

http://blackrock.org/im-new/sermons/i-wouldnt-have-done-it-that-way/

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YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

An interesting story from my old shipmate and new Hungarian friend.

 

MrvonD3VonD Navy

YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

by Adam von Dioszeghy

Fifty years is a long time. People die. Generations die. Babies are born. Buildings are torn down and new ones go up. Ships are scrapped and new ones launched. Some types of music pass out of favor and others rise to the top. Old habits cease and new ones take hold. In general, things change.

Most of us don’t like change; at least, we don’t like those things to change that we have not only become accustomed to but that we like a lot. And yet, change is inevitable, like it or not. The hardest thing to take is the unexpected change of something that you would have sworn would never change. You go into a thing, expecting it to be JUST as you knew it and….bam! it’s gone. Or it is now something totally different than what it used to be, than what you knew it to be.

I served as a Naval officer in the conflict know as the “Vietnam War”. It started in 1964 and ended in 1975. I was involved in the front end, on a destroyer (USS Porterfield DD682); my last deployment was in 1967, on the same old destroyer. When my tour ended, I said my good byes in Yokosuka, Japan, flew back to the US – to be specific, to Travis Air Force Base in Northern California – went to law school, practiced law and lived another kind of life. But I never forgot Vietnam or the Navy. As hard as the experience was, it left an indelible mark on my life and on my persona. I still say, “say again” instead of, please repeat it, or “you’re coming in garbled and unreadable” instead of, I didn’t understand you, and “we’ve been rotating and radiating” instead of, we’ve been moving about aimlessly. When we are getting ready to go somewhere, I say, “single up all lines”. Fortunately, my wife understands me and my idiosyncracies. This speaks volumes for her and her kindness.

In 2000, we moved back to the land of my birth, Hungary. The Navy faded further and further back in my mind. But – as tangents go – it never quite reached the point of being completely forgotten. Some of the Navy pictures still hang on the walls. My old “official” Navy baseball cap is still around, and I still wear it; it has the name of my ship and my name, rank and position (ASW or Anti-Submarine Warfare officer) on it. It has survived 50 years of use and abuse. Not like some other things…but I’m getting ahead of my story.

In 2016, Aliz and I decided that it was time to visit our old homeland, the U.S.of A. We had not been there since 2009. Our last home was in Napa Valley, California, so that was the major destination we had in mind. But we had friends all over the State, so we made arrangements to see as many of them as possible. One such friend was Martha, the widow of one of my shipmates on the Porterfield. In fact, he was not just a shipmate but my superior officer, as he was head of the Weapons Department, ASW being a part thereof. He was also the best friend I had on the ship. He left the Porterfield late in 1966 to pursue a Naval career, which he managed to do excellently…as he did most things. Sadly, he died after a short illness, battling pancreatic cancer, in 1999. Aliz and I kept in touch with Martha, his widow. So, as we planned our journey, we decided to include a trip to San Diego to visit her.

The Porterfield was homeported in San Diego. Although Martha and Todd lived in various places in the States, they returned there when he retired, and she still resides there.

The San Diego Naval Base has always been a big and important one, and it has stayed that way even after some down-sizing by the Navy. The destroyers and cruisers of the fleet were “housed” at the “32nd Street Naval Station”. I had many wonderful memories of the base; well, not so much of the base itself, as its Officers’ Club, affectionately referred to as “O Club”. Rarely did a day go by when – after “libs” began (for you non-Navy types, that is the commencement of liberty…usually about 16:00 hours…or 4 p.m.) – the officers would gather at the O Club for a few drinks (one, two, seven or eight) and for discussions of the disgusting habits of the CO (Commanding Officer) or the XO (Executive Officer) or the idiotic ways of the Navy. When the ship would go out for excercises on Monday morning, and return Friday afternoon, it was inevitable that all officers (not on duty) would gather at the O Club, occasionally even joined by wives and/or girlfriends. From time to time, such gatherings would “deterriorate” into dinner, and a very late night, indeed. Cops, way back then, were a little more forgiving of drunk driving, especially by “warriors”. I’m happy to report that there were never any accidents, let alone ones with death or injury attached. God looks after fools, little children and – apparently – drunken Naval officers. As a personal aside, on one occasion, our ship came back after a particularly difficult and trying week at sea, and was followed by an unusually enthusiastic evening of drinking and dining, with even more than the usually copious amount of imbibing. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the next morning – a Saturday – I had to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) on Point Loma at a unversity there. When the test began, I was not even hung over: I was still inebriated. For reasons only known to the Man Upstrairs, I got a high score on the test, and managed to get admitted into Stanford Law School. Apologies for the digression….

So, as you see, the O Club was an essential part of my Naval experience. And as memories would occasionally surface, it featured prominently in my recollections. However, the distance to Hungary and our very infrequent trips to the US reduced the chances of ever seeing my beloved O Club again. And then came the visit of 2016.

Before going to visit Martha, Aliz and I decided to stay a couple of days at a hotel in downtown San Diego and see some old sights. And, of course, go to the O Club for a drink, “strolling down memory lane”; Aliz had heard so much about the place, I desperately wanted her to come and re-live a few moments with me in that iconic place.

Of course, San Diego had also changed in 50 years. There were new freeways criss-crossing it, new high-rises, changing views and the redesign of the center of town, making recognition of old things difficult. As Aliz and I sat in a downtown bar, I asked the bartender if he was local. He shook his head…he was new in town. So I said,

“Then, I guess, You wouldn’t know how to get to 32nd street from here?”

Before he answered, a nice young man, sitting at the end of the bar, with a baseball cap turned backwards on his head, said to me,

“Do you mean the Naval Base?”

I lit up like a lamp.

“Yeah, the 32nd Street Naval Station!”, was my enthusiastic reply. The young man pulled out his smart phone, punched in some data, and commenced telling me how to get to it, using some freeways. I was so happy I could have danced a jig. It looked like Fate wanted us to go memory-hunting. I couldn’t wait till the next afternoon so we could make our pilgrimage.

The next afternoon came, and my excitement rose to new heights. I told story after story to Aliz about those wonderful times at the O club so many years ago. How every time one of us “made rank” (being promoted to a higher rank), he had to host a “wetting down party” for all the other officers in the wardroom….a financial “hit” of no inconsiderable measure to his pocket book. She hid her boredom well, and was waiting to see and experience the “scene of the crimes” herself. I followed the instructions of my young friend of the previous day and made the approach to the gate of the base. I tried to search my memory to see if anything looked familiar, but the surrounding area had changed too much. The entry, which was quite active and busy back in the 60s, seemed much less so; and yet, there was a line of cars waiting to enter. Finally, I pulled up to the Marine sentry.

My heart was beating pretty fast as I handed the Marine my Navy i.d. card. The card was dated Sept. 21, 1968, and the accompanying photo was of the same vintage. It took some imagination to match the face of the 30 year-old officer, staring back at you – with a decidedly military look – with the face of the 77 year-old geezer sitting at the wheel of the car seeking entry. However, the old i.d card had “indefinite” for the expiration date, so the card was – technically! – valid. The Marine stared at the card, as if he was looking at a ghost. He looked at the photo and then he looked at me. Finally, his hand flew to his cap in a salute.

“Good afternoon, Sir. May I help you?” Deja vu was all over me. The spool of time was being rewound.

“Good afternoon, Marine”, I replied. “I haven’t been on this base since the Vietnam War….almost 50 years ago. Can you direct me to the Officers’ Club so I can show my wife where we had about the only fun back in those long-gone, hard days”, I continued. “I have forgotten where it is.”

There was a pause, and the Marine – still standing at attention – slowly replied.

“I’m afraid, Sir, that there is no longer an Officers’ Club on this base.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t have heard right. WHAT? NO OFFICERS’ CLUB ON A NAVY BASE??? I almost didn’t know what to say to him. Then I gathered my wits about me and turned back to him.

“Where do the officers do their drinking when the ship ties up after a hard week of exercises at sea?” I asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know , Sir….all I know is that there is no Officers’ Club on this base….hasn’t been one since women entered the Navy fighting force. Now, I don’t know if the two events are connected…”, said the Marine. I shook my head and continued my seemingly hopeless task (meanwhile, the line behind me was getting longer, but no one honked the horn): “Do you mean to tell me that you can’t even have a BEER on this base??!!” The laconic answer was: “I’m afraid you can’t, SIR!”

I was devastated. There was nothing else I could do. My wife was remarkably silent and placid beside me. I straightened in my seat (as much as I could), and said to the Marine:

“Thank you, Marine…I’m sorry I bothered you.” The Marine straightened – which was unnecessary being that he was as straight as could be – tightened his salute and said, in parting:

“No problem, SIR! And I’m sorry, SIR! I understand how you feel, Sir. And, thank you for serving in ‘Nam, SIR!” My hand flew to my coverless head, and my salute was as snappy as his. I put the car in gear, negotiated a U-turn and headed out the gate. The folks behind me probably wondered what that was all about. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that any of them could have guessed.

Aliz and I did not speak until we were back on I-5, heading north. She must have know how I felt and did not want to disturb my thoughts. I looked at her – her face reflecting the setting sun – and I thought that her eyes were a bit more moist than usual. I smiled, as our eyes met, and said:

“Thomas Wolfe couldn’t have said it better: ‘You can’t go home again'”.

I got just a little drunk that night in a nice, civilized, civilian bar.

 

More of Adam von Dioszeghy (Mr. von D as we called him back then) here:

http://www.amazon.com/BRIDGING-TWO-WORLDS-Memories-Reflections/dp/1622878663/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Bridging Two Worlds: a book review

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1622878663

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I’ve been reading the memoir of my old USS Porterfield shipmate and new friend Adam von Dioszeghy. Well I’ve just finished it and would like to share with you a bit about that remarkable story.

I’ve read many books over the years, and many have been biographical and some autobiographical. This one is among the best, if not the best I’ve read, and certainly the most captivating. The man’s story is almost beyond belief, and I am thrilled to have known him back in 1965-66 if ever so briefly and casually. And now to know him so much more intimately, albeit via the book and e-mails back and forth, brings a deep satisfaction.

The man begins life in 1938 as a Hungarian aristocrat – a Baron – the ruling class. But at 7 years of age everything is stripped away except for his mother — herself a Baroness – by World War II. Adam describes those war years vividly and with much passion, but also with a fair amount of humor.

Life after the war, under Communism is brutal for Adam and his mother, mainly because of his mother’s previous station in life as an aristocrat. Here is how he describes the treatment of his mother in those Communist years:

“ … she … was stripped of all human dignity common to even the lowest of beings. The authorities treated her worse than if she was a leper or a person afflicted with the foulest of communicable diseases, or possibly a criminal. There were only certain places – and not very desirable ones – where she was allowed to live. … Day in and day out, in every conceivable circumstance, it was made known to her that her very existence was bothersome to the “state,” and the sooner she could depart this vale of tears for better climes the better. … “

In Adam’s late teen years as a university student he becomes involved in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and is twice wounded. Now a wanted man and marked for death, he and his mother escape on foot to Austria with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Within a few short years they wind up in St. Louis and then on to Northern California where Adam gets a bachelors degree from Stanford University. (Mind you, when he and his mom arrived in the US, they spoke no English.) This was a year after the beginning of the Vietnam War, and Adam was drafted. But rather than let the draft play out, Adam joined the Navy and was commissioned an Ensign at Newport Rhode Island. He was then assigned to the USS Porterfield (DD-682) where he and I served together including one tour to Vietnam (he did three).

Following his Navy service, Adam returned to Stanford where he earned a law degree and began a 35 year career as a trail lawyer.

Just a note here that his book is full of very insightful and often humorous experiences as he (and his mom) navigate through this new country of theirs.

Following retirement the von Dioszeghys moved to Hungary where they have a flat in Budapest and a small 7 acre country estate where they grow grapes and make wine.

Adam closes the book by revisiting his heritage and discovering more about his father and his service in World War I, and how as a respected leader strived to return order and dignity to the now defeated and very fragmented nation. He also described a visit and tour to the Parliament building in Budapest, and to a very elegant meeting room where his grandfather sat and spoke nearly 100 years prior. Had life turned a different direction, Adam would have sat in that same seat years later.

And remember his description of how his mother was treated by the Communists? Now standing outside the Parliament with his wife Aliz, Adam reflects on one of the menial jobs his mother was allowed to have – chipping marble stones used in the reconstruction of that magnificent but badly war damaged Parliament building — chipping stones for long hours in all kinds of weather as if a slave in the service of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

And I close by pointing out the irony of two immigrants, Adam and his wife Aliz, each choosing citizenship in new nations – he as a US citizen and her as a Hungarian citizen, while at the same time retaining citizenship in their respective old-countries.

Don Johnson – March 2016

BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: A Book Report & a Friend

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This is a story of a life. The life of a shipmate of mine on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) — Adam von Dioszeghy.

Mr. VonD as he was called in the mid 1960s (1964-67) was our Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) officer. He was also the Officer in charge down in IC-Plot where he and I served elbow-to-elbow during General Quarters. He was a crazy and fun man to be around, and since he had a “von” in his name and an accent I always thought he was Dutch.

This book is much more than Adam’s Navy remembrances. It begins with 7 year old Adam and his mother in the bomb shelter basement of their Budapest Hungary apartment building during World War II with war raging all around them — from the bombers above and the Germans and Russian Red Army across and down the street.  It continues post war with life under brutal Communist rule and continues to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution when young teenage Adam is twice wounded and he and his mother have to flee the country with nothing but the clothes on their back.
They eventually make it to the US, speaking no English at all, where Adam gets a University degree from Stanford and then joins the Navy and is assigned to Porterfield where I knew him — not very well because he was an officer an I was enlisted.
Following his Navy service Adam returns to Stanford where he gets a Law degree and practices law in California for many years.
He and his wife moved to Hungary about 7-10 years ago and have a small 7 acre farm where they enjoy life and make home-made Hungarian wine. I hope some day to be sitting with them with my wife sipping some of that wine and enjoying the Hungarian countryside and their company.
I hooked up again with Adam recently through the magic of my 1966 WestPac cruise book and the internet. We have been corresponding with each other via email — after all these years he is my very first pen pal.
I highly recommend Adam’s book. It is a man’s life written in a very readable style — much humor and much attention to detail that is amazing to read. It’s much more than a man’s Navy experiences and covers a young 7 year old boy in the midst of the carnage of WW-II, life under Communist rule; the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and escape in the middle of the night. It tells of a young man and his mother assimilating as refugees into a brand new country and culture, having to learn the new language as they go, the adventures lived, and successes achieved along the way.
An amazing book by an amazing man making a new life in a new world — and no, he’s not Dutch.

MrvonD3VonD Navy

Here’s a link to the book, now go buy it!

BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: Memories and Reflections

The Refugee at My Corner

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I set out for a walk the other day, and as I approached the corner the Q bus stopped just across the street from its usual stop.

As the bus pulled away and I reached the corner, there was a woman standing on the street – not on the sidewalk, but in the street where apparently she had just gotten off the bus.  She waved to me as if asking for directions or help, so I approached her.

Right away it became obvious there would be a language problem as it seemed the only two words she used in pleading with me were “block” and “central.” 

We walked back to the sidewalk and I tried to understand her dilemma and possibly help her. She kept saying those two words – ‘block’ and ‘central.’

Then she started asking about a B bus and seemed to want to find a B bus. So slowly, and with much gesturing we started a bit of communication. Using hand gestures and pointing back and forth to the street we had just came off of, and the street where the bus dropped he off on its way away from downtown New Haven, then gesturing up and down towards the street we were walking down, Central Ave, and then pointing down Central to the next street and gesturing left and right, I then started saying to her “block .. .block … block. ”  Slowly, and mainly by gestures we began to communicate. I asked her, again by gestures, where was she from, what was her country … Syria she said.  And after pointing to myself and saying ‘Don’ she looked at me and with a bit of a smile and a hand pointing to herself said ‘Lenna.’ I asked about family, and with her hands sweeping about waist high in a gesture she held up the fingers of one hand and said ‘five.’ 

Pointing to myself again and saying ‘72’ she then held up three fingers on each hand and pointed back at herself … she was thirty three years old and the mother of five.

By then we had walked several blocks down Central to where the B bus stopped and she seemed to be a little bit more comfortable.

A woman across the street was walking a large dog,  and when Lenna saw the dog she pushed up close to me and slipped her hand behind my elbow and said ‘I afraid dogs!’

As we approached the B bus stop she was able to communicate to me that she needed to go downtown and catch the O bus to Milford. Apparently having been downtown just before I met her on the street, Lenna had mistakenly gotten on the Q bus rather than the O bus – O/Q – Q/O – an understandable mistake.

I should have stayed with Lenna and made sure she got on the proper O bus downtown, but she seemed insistent that she would be OK from there on.

We smiled at each other and I continued my walk …

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I have a soft spot in my heart for refugees. Perhaps it’s because I’ve known some of them, and know of tens of thousands second hand through my Navy experience and research. Here’s some I remember:

  • Gabe Harkey. Gabe was an engineer I worked with for a number of years at Cubic. He was a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and a fine man as well as an excellent engineer.
    Gabe escaped from two revolutions; the first as I said, as a young man escaped the Communist/Russian tyranny of 1956, and the second escape was from the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
       Gabe was on assignment in Teheran for a system we were to install in a few months for the Iranian Air Force. While there, the revolutionaries invaded the hotel Gabe was staying in and set fire to the lounge on the ground floor with flames spreading to the higher floors. Escape below was cut off by the fire so Gabe and others fled to the roof. Fortunately there was a building being constructed next to Gabe’s hotel and a construction crane rescued many from the roof top. Needless to say, we never deployed to Iran with the system.
  • House Painters. I don’t remember the names of this young couple from Czechoslovakia that we hired to paint our house in San Diego in late 1989. This was the time when the Soviet Union was collapsing and the Iron Curtain countries broke away from the Soviet Union.
       This young couple had tried once to escape Czechoslovakia by applying for a vacation visa to Yugoslavia with the intent of sneaking into Italy and thus to the freedom of the West. Shortly before departing for their “vacation”, their visa was revoked and their escape plans were dashed. They then applied for an exit visa which was granted, and they left for Italy as legal immigrants. They came under the sponsorship of an Italian Catholic organization, and eventually were able to come to the US where we met them and got to know a little of their story.
       As we were having dinner at our house and listening to the story of this couple, Czechoslovakia was still under Communist rule and the last of the East European Soviet Union client states still under Soviet control.
       The young painter was very critical and dismissive of his former country and its people. He spoke of them as lazy Stalinists who would never get off their lazy butts to get out from under the oppressive yoke of Communism.
       Ironically, just several weeks after we last saw them, those lazy Stalinists did overthrow their government and became a free nation.
       I wish we had somehow kept in contact with them.
  • LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy. Adam is both a new and an old friend.
       Old as when he was a young LTJG ASW Officer and I was an even younger enlisted Seaman. Mr. vonD and I stood bridge watch together as well as stood side by side at our General Quarters station in Fire Control Plot. At the time, and since, I thought Mr. vonD was Dutch.
       New as when I recently made contact again with Adam who now lives in Hungary (he now asks me to call him Adam rather than Mr. vonD).
       Adam apparently is a refugee from that 1956 Hungarian Revolution that produced so many refugees. I don’t know much about that time in his life, but he wrote a memoir, BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: Memories and Reflections, that I’ve just ordered and am anxious to read. 
  •   Charlie. I’ve never met Charlie, but have met his wife and widow who now lives in Idaho. Joan had us over for lunch one day and over a meal told us a bit of her life with her husband Charlie, a Hungarian refugee. Charlie came to American out of that terrible time of the 1956 Hungarian revolution that was so brutally stomped out by the Russian Soviet army. Between the two of them,  Joan and Charlie managed to produce three memoirs; Joan, Charlie and US.
       I have to admit I haven’t read all of these memoirs, but along with Adam’s work I’ve got a bit of reading ahead.
  • Hai (David) Nguyễn.  I  met David in prison in San Diego back in the late 1980s. Hai was a young boy when he escaped South Vietnam as one of those countless “boat people.” He somehow ran afoul of the law and wound up in the Donovan prison where I met him as a friend in a Christian outreach program. We visited him on a number of occasions in prison, and once in Los Angeles when he invited us down for dinner. A very nice fellow, but we haven’t maintained contact with him.
  • The Lucky Few.  And this is the story that gets my refugee emotions churning big time. The story of a small US Navy Fast Frigate – USS Kirk (FF-1087) and how they rescued 30,000+ Vietnamese from  almost certain annihilation by the Communist North Vietnamese invaders.
       Click here to see this amazing story, and here as part of a video I put together as a companion to my book I Didn’t Want to Worry You Mom

Reading some of the stories of the brutality happening to so many in the Middle East, in particular Iraq and Syria is heartbreaking, and being Christian, my inclination is to help, and be supportive of a nation  that traditionally has helped those in dire need.

The scourge of the twentieth century was Communism, Nazism and Fascism.  The scourge of the twenty first century is and will be Islam – not militant Islam – Islam. They are at war with us even as we deny our role as a combatant.  But just as we fought those enemies of the last century – we also provided a new home and new opportunity for millions of victims of those horrible years of war.  We must do the same now – fight the barbarous enemies and yet find room for the many victims.

  **  **  **  **  

**  **  **  **

There’s more.

By now most of us know of the hundreds of thousands of ME refugees flowing into all of Western Europe.

What we are now learning is that there have been spikes in violent crimes, mostly rapes, committed by many of these Muslim young men in many European nations that have welcomed these refugees. We also learn that many of the cell phones contain grotesque pictures of torture, beheadings and mutilations. 

Norway, where we have much family, is one of the nations being effected by these new found problems. And I know from personal knowledge that the Norwegians are a compassionate people, willing and actually helping many in great need.

So there is legitimate reason to exercise caution and great care when vetting and admitting ‘refugees’ into our nations. There is reason to suspect that many of these young men are posing as refugees, but are in fact enemies set on destroying the ‘infidel’ and establishing the Muslim Caliphate where we live.

 

Don Johnson – January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

On old long syne — 2015

600px-John_Masey_Wright_-_John_Rogers_-_Robert_Burns_-_Auld_Lang_Syne
(click on the image above)

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?
CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
CHORUS
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.
CHORUS
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.
CHORUS
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to1xT93IlUI

Should auld acquaintance be forgot  … ?

Pushing on to 72 years means many “auld acquaintance’s” there behind me, but with fewer coming along with me.

It’s been a good life!  … Easy?  Well in a very broad sense yes it has been easy, but there are those times, in the midst of it all, when it has seemed hard and troublesome.

But then I think on the many “auld acquaintance’s” and I am indeed a very grateful and blessed man. Blessed by God with much family — parents who loved me and raised me with love … a wonderful woman, a wife, as a lifelong companion, lover  and friend  … a wonderful son and wonderful daughter (I love you both!) … three wonderful grandchildren … and two brothers.

And the other family spread out all over this amazing nation and across the world. Father in law, mother in lay, brothers and sisters in law, aunts & uncles – cousins aplenty, both mine and Diana’s. I love and have loved them all.

Friends – some lifelong and some new. Friends across this fruited land and far away places like The Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary, Fiji, Zambia, Italy, South Africa.

In 2015 I was amazingly able to renew some truly “auld acquaintance’s.” Old meaning from the days of my youth and  early adulthood:

Here are a few:

________________

Coach Sam Jankovich.

Coach SamCoachSam now 

You can read about Coach Sam’s storied career at the link above, but let me tell you the story of how he and I are connected and how we became reconnected this past year. 

Sam and I are Butte Montana natives, and after having gone our separate ways following high school, I didn’t give much thought to Sam, and I’m sure he could not have remembered me as an undistinguished skinny high school kid.

But then a few years ago Sam’s son Sam bought the iconic M&M bar in Butte and set out to reestablish it a watering hole in uptown Butte.

Young Sam

A few years ago while visiting Butte we met young Sam in the M&M, had a beer and exchanged pleasantries. Sam brought us to the back of the bar where he had a “Sam Jankovich Hall of Fame” display with many mementos of his father.

While looking at all of this stuff I mentioned to Sam that I remembered his dad from Butte High. Sam, expecting I was perhaps a football jock, was surprised and laughed when I told him that his dad taught me typing.  That’s right … Coach Sam, football legend,  also taught typing, and I am forever grateful for that skill.

Sam gave me his dad’s phone number in Haydon Lake Idaho and said “give him a call. So I tucked the number in my wallet for a couple of years.

Then in August 2015, while walking a trail in Idaho not far from Sam’s place in Haydon Lake, I took that number from my wallet and called:

Coach: Hello …
Me: Hello Mr. Jankovich (you should always address a teacher as Mr. Miss or Mrs.)  This is Don Johnson, you may remember me from your days at Butte High.
Coach: Well the name sounds familiar … (he’s thinking football.)
Me: You’re perhaps thinking I’m one of your players, but actually Mr. Jankovich I remember you as my typing teacher.
Coach: “ … laughter … ”
Me: “ … laughter … ” I’m in your neighborhood for awhile, and it would sure be nice to see you again.
Sam: Well what a surprise. Tell ya what, I’m going to Butte this weekend, and if you are still around next week when I get back why don’t you come on over and we’ll have a drink and talk Butte.
Me: Sounds like a plan, I’ll call next week.
Sam: Ya know I hear from my players now and then, and sometimes we get together. But you are the very first of my typing students to ever give me a call … laughter … laughter.

So the next week I visited Sam at his house and we had a cup of coffee and talked Butte. And as I was leaving he said “next time bring your wife … I’d like to meet her.”

_____________

Major Mark (Foxy) Foxwell

Foxwell1MarkFoxwell-1_2004

Mark Foxwell was the Air Force Officer in Charge at Tyndall AFB Florida in 1977 when we installed the ACMI range there. We worked with him on an almost daily basis back then and he was one class act and fun to be around, to say nothing about how helpful he was in coordination things we both needed.  The following is the e-mail I sent to him recently, followed by his reply.

Hi “Foxy” It’s been many a year, but we worked together at the ACMI at Tyndall. I was part of the Cubic crew that installed the range back in 1977.
I think of those days every now and then, and they were good times … and I remember working with you with your dedication and good hummer.
Your name came up last night in one of those strange “small world” events. My daughter’s friend Krissy was at our house baking Christmas cookies and they took a break to make some Red Beans & Rice. It smelled really good and I made the remark that it reminded me of my days in Panama City with my old friend Ed Burdik. Krissy perked up and said “you were in Panama City? That’s where I was born … my dad was a F-106 pilot stationed at Tyndall.” And as it turned out we were all there together at the same time.
I don’t know her dad’s name, but when I find out I will send it to you per chance you may know one another.
Another name that came up was Skip Sanders. I knew Skip over the years as I continued working Cubic Air Ranges and we would run into one another on occasion.
I don’t know what you did following Tyndall, but you may be interested in knowing a bit about what happened to ACMI in the subsequent years. You can take a look at http://www.cubic.com and see the latest. The last project I worked, in 2009, was what is called P-5 and handles 72 aircraft and the pretty much the entire battle space (computer technology is wonderful).
And I put together my own remembrances and history of the system and its people at: https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/interesting-people-i-have-met-cubic-defense-systems/
It’s good to see your face once more.
Regards,
Don Johnson

Mark’s reply:

Wow, Don, what a pleasant surprise to hear from you. Working with you and Cubic on the ACMI helped really propel my career; I got promoted early after that stint at Tyndall, later became IWS Commander, then on to Europe and F-16s. I retired as the Tyndall Base Commander in late 1992. I do not recognize Krissy; but certainly I relished knowing and working with Skip Sanders. Thank You for contacting me. Let’s keep in touch.

________________

Jack Hix

JackHix2JackHix3Jack Hix FT SeamanJackHix4

Jack and I were Fire Control Technicians (FTG) who operated and maintained the equipment associated with controlling the five 5” guns we had on board. We served together on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) in 1965-66 and then did our active reserve duty from 1966-69 on board the USS Shields (DD-596) also  a Fletcher class tin can.

We were both married, and had apartments off base and were quite good friends during those years. But as time moved on we went our separate ways and lost contact with one another.

Then in recent weeks I was able to contact Jack via Facebook. Not much conversation yet, but hopefully that will change and I hope to see Jack at the 2016 ship reunion in San Diego where he still lives.

___________

LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy (Mr. vonD)

VonD NavyMrvonD3

Adam von Dioszeghy was the ASW (Anti-Submarine-Warfare) Officer during the time I was on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) in 1965-66. Mr. vonD was also the Officer in Charge of IC-Plot during General Quarters, and we spent a good deal of time together side by side, along with Jack Hix,  running the Fire Control Computer. Mr. vonD, being the officer also had the responsibility for actually pulling the triggers which shot our matched set of 5 –  5”/38 Caliber guns.

My normal underway watch station was the Bridge watch where I actually took my turn as helmsman and steered the ship as well as phone talker, look-out and Lee Helmsman where I relayed ship speed to the engine rooms via an Engine Order Telegraph. Mr. vonD was one of the Officers of the Deck, and and we worked together there as well.

The following is the e-mail message where we hooked up again after almost 50 years:

Hello Mrs. Von Dioszeghy,
I hope you get this message, and I hope I have the right people to send this to.
I was in the Navy back in 1965-66 on board the USS Porterfield (DD-682) and at one of my General Quarters stations in a place called IC-Plot was this crazy guy LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy who was the officer in charge in that space and the guy that actually pulled the gun triggers. I was an FT Seaman at the time and made FT 3’rd class on the Porterfield.
If he is the guy, it would b e great to say hello once more after all these years.
My wife and I and another couple from Ridgecrest CA visited Hungary several years ago and enjoyed it very much. We spent a week at Keszthely, and then a week at Budapest. We enjoyed our time in both places very much, and at Keszthely met a couple of Americans that snow bird between Tucson and Keszthely.
Looking at your pictures, it looks like you have a lovely place and a good life.
In recent years, I have rekindled a passionate interest in things Navy and have published a book and put together a video of life at sea. You can see them at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sloZqBsalZc
and
http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/6608466-i-didn-t-want-to-worry-you-mom?class=book-title
The Porterfield has had reunions for 40 years now, and my wife and I have attended the last three and have met and re-met sailors and family going back to 1943 through 1969 — it’s been an amazing experience for me.
I am in charge of organizing the 2016 reunion in San Diego next September, and if ya’ll are the Von Dioszeghys I think you are, we would love to see you there. I know it’s a long shot, but hey if the question is never asked, the answer is always no. Short of that, a greeting from Adam would be most welcomed by the group.

And his response:

Hi Don…yes indeed, I am the one and only crazy guy in IC-plot. As you may recall, everyone called me Mr. vonD. I’d like to keep in touch with you, so here is my e-mail (better than Facebook): xxxxxxxxx@yyyy.com. I also have written a book, which contains a number of Porterfield stories: the link to it has already been sent to you. I will order your book right now….can’t wait to read it. I loved your video about life at sea (and the story of the Murphy which I didn’t know). I have just looked through my 1965 cruise book and found the picture of second division, but I don’t know where you are in it…please tell me the row and the number (I’m sure you have the cruise book). I’m looking forward to hearing from you VERY SOON! Happy New Year! Adam von Dioszeghy

It turns out that Adam was a Hungarian refugee who escaped in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution. Years later in 2005 he and his wife bought a small farm outside of Budapest and now live there.  Someday I’m hoping they will invite us over to sip a bit of their home made wine and chat a bit.

________________

So there you have it from the end of 2015. I enjoy life, and I enjoy learning the life stories of others. I hope you have enjoyed my time travel with a few of my auld acquaintance’s

Don Johnson – December 2015

 

 

The Magic of Hats and the Journey of Ten

hats

https://youtu.be/wYUBYwjY6zE

I often wear one of these hats, because so often I meet interesting people when the hat attracts the attention of a passerby. It begins with the usual “Thank you for your service.”

I stepped into the elevator one morning in Denver where I was attending the 40th annual reunion of the USS Balch and USS Porterfield, two ships from the WW-II era.

Pete Coulson greeted me with the “Thank you for your service” greeting and that set off a very interesting conversation in the hotel lobby.

image

Pete took interest in what all of us sailors were all about, but we quickly shifted to his life story, or rather the story of his family.

As you watch the video, you learn that Pete was #7 of 10 throwaway kids in Austria in the late 1040s following the War. These kids were mixed race of black American GIs and white Austrian girls. And nobody wanted them and they wound up in an orphanage.

Pete’s father was a GI stationed in Austria and met a young girl and they fell in love.

image

They went to America, but were unable to have children. Then they heard of an orphanage in Austria that needed some help, so they returned to Austria and adopted 10 mixed race children — all at the same time.

Watch and listen to this heart warming story at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYUBYwjY6zE&feature=youtu.be

In meeting and talking with Pete ever so briefly, his joy of life and joy of the Lord comes through strongly, as does his life long ministry of working with youth.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost Pete’s e-mail address so I’m not able to correspond with him.

Don Johnson – September 2015