In memoriam

Col. Harold Joseph O'Grady, USAF

Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady, USAF

I wonder what my old man would think about today’s United States of America, the descendant of the country he fought for in World War II. Would he even recognize the place?

Harold Joseph O’Grady was born in 1918, at the end of World War I — “The War to End All Wars” — so, having found himself suiting up for another one just a quarter century later, he might not be surprised to find the nation still embroiled in its longest war ever, in Afghanistan.

The nation asked a lot of the old man back when he was still a young fella — 668 hours of combat time, flying out of New Guinea with the 65th Squadron, 433rd Troop Carrier Group — but it paid him back, too, with a 30-year gig, a generous pension and free health care.

As a career Air Force officer with a reputation for caring about and giving credit to his subordinates, he would’ve been seriously pissed that so many of today’s troops can’t make ends meet on what Uncle Sammy pays, that the VA has been jerking his people around, cooking the books to make paper-shufflers look good and veterans look dead, and that Congress only takes notice when the cameras (and the cash) are rolling.

As a conservative Southerner, he would’ve been appalled that there is so little attention devoted to actual conservation — not of the constitutional rights to shoot off your mouth or your machine gun, but of the basics — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, along with optional upgrades like serviceable roads and bridges, functional public schools, and a government that wouldn’t embarrass Albania.

As a guy with a sense of humor he might have asked, “Why did we fight a world war to save this country so you could treat it like a rental car?”

Shit, dude, we still can’t believe you gave us the keys.




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28 Responses to “In memoriam”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Ralph and Roy Bonati were born in 1917 and 1920, respectively. John Zeh Jr., my first father in law, was born in 25 or 26. Ralph and Roy ran the house after my grandpa rode his motorcycle into a streetcar in Buffalo, and eventually joined the army. Ralph before the war, when he was in the Army Corps of Engineers, and Roy when the shit hit the fan. Ralph had choice duty–an aide to Gen. Raymond Wheeler in India. Roy was dodging bullets and ’88s in France, working on a railway battalion. John had tough duty. He landed on D+3 at Normandy and was tasked with cleaning up the remains of the folks who didn’t make it off the beaches.

    Like Harold Joseph, they were of that Greatest Generation, the likes of which we see so little of these days. God bless them. I’m sure they are up there somewhere wondering what the hell happened to this place.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Oh, man, can you imagine D+3 and cleanup detail? Somehow the John Wayne flicks they showed us at the base cinema on Randolph AFB sort of glossed over that aspect of the conflict. Dudes just went, “Arrgh,” and collapsed into tidy piles.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Closest I ever came to that level of violence was driving around a high speed curve and dodging a 90 year old motorist who was driving salmon. After calling 911 I backed up because no one was coming up behind me. Sure enough, the wrong way car had hit a Harley head on, and the two riders were bleeding out in the road. They both died.

  2. Libby Says:

    Thank you, Patrick for your essay. A big thank you to your Pater, too, for his service and all the vets for their service. My father was a WWII vet, also.

  3. sharon Says:

    My dad is USN retired. Interesting life growing up among the military – in my case all along the East Coast from Florida to Maine. Sacrifices were made by both those in the military and their families. I salute all of those who served or will serve, but wish that life on no one.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It’s quite the life, eh, Sharon? You ever read “The Great Santini?” Boy, did Pat Conroy ever get that one right.

      You’d be surprised how many pro journos are service brats. Maybe not. The life sure gives you a facility for meeting people at speed. Downside is, saying adios is just about as easy.

      As you say, it ain’t for everyone. But at least nobody was shooting at us.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        I liked the movie, but when I tried to read the book, I couldn’t finish it because of the actions of the father. Like Counselor Pelkey, I find it really hard to have compassion for a bully. Heard an interview of the author on NPR, and it seems the son and father reconciled, sort of.
        Well, going riding with a fellow I met at the city ride. He has a big motor. We shall see if he is willing to go at a geezer’s pace.

      • Steve O Says:

        Also makes you wonder, or maybe it doesn’t, why the heart attack rate during the first five years after retirement is about 20 times what you would expect for that age group

        Divorce rate as well

        And I think it was the business insider that had Fayetteville NC and Columbus GA, two big military towns, in their top 10 worst places to live list. Nothings too good for our troops, as long is the only thing you’re counting are tattoo parlors, strip joints, and payday check cashers

  4. Pat O'Brien Says:

    My Father also fought in WW II. He was a combat engineer who flew gliders in the Pacific theater and built airstrips.

    The gift that generation gave us still amazes me, especially today.

    • khal spencer Says:

      That Guy I Never Knew was apparently a medic in Korea. All I got was a ring engraved “6th Army Medical Depot, Korea, 1951-52”. Salute to him, too. I guess.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Gliders. Yow. Big brass ones. I require that all my aircraft have engines. And even then, I prefer driving.

    • Steve O Says:

      The military cracks me up when it comes to problem solving. Brilliant sometimes, ridiculous others. I’ve never figured out if gliders were a solution to a tough nut to crack, or if there just happened to be a surplus of balsa wood in the ’40s. Not to mention engineers sniffing airplane glue.

  5. Steve O Says:

    Got a feeling that my grandfathers and your old man would agree on quite a bit.

    Probably sharing a bottomless bottle of Jameson’s right now.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      He was an interesting bit of work, the old man. I expect we were more alike than either of us cared to admit, which is probably one of the reasons we got along so poorly as I “grew up.”

      Mom told us he had wanted to be a veterinarian before the war came along. Animals loved him, too. That war killed some people quickly and others at its leisure. Most do, or so it seems from my extremely limited and uninformed perspective.

  6. khal spencer Says:

    Anyone know what’s going on regarding that huge mudslide up at Grand Mesa?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Last I heard the three guys were still missing and the slide was described as “unstable.” The Grand Junction paper requires registration, but The Denver Post has something on it. Herself saw a copter video and it creeped her right out.

      The weather down Durango way was bad enough that they had to cut the Iron Horse road race off at Purgatory and cancel the mountain-bike race. Still, it beats being smothered by a migratory hillside.

  7. bromasi Says:

    “Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady, USAF”, Thank You

  8. Charley Says:

    Nicely written.

  9. Larry T. Says:

    We send these folks off to war – for what? Each war sounds so noble and just at the time, but so foolish afterwards, once the fog has cleared and the casualties counted.
    As someone once said, I long for the days when education and healthcare get all the money they can spend while the Air Force needs to hold a bake sale to finance the new bomber fleet. But….you know what my wife says…

    • Steve O Says:

      We send these folks off for … ?

      Political inertia. Cuz that’s the way it’s always been.

      There was a certain moral clarity to WWII (only in comparison to other wars, that is). Hitler was a bad guy, and we weren’t it in for a land grab.

      But it cost a fortune in blood and treasure. And you can’t tell me that spending one-fourth of that on hit men and economic pressure wouldn’t have accomplished the same thing.

    • john Says:

      I think World War 2 was pretty much necessary because of the horror and brutality of the Nazi and Imperial Japanese, and the Civil War was necessary too, to put down a traitorous rebellion devoted to perpetuating the worst human rights abuse ever.

      Other than that, I’m not so sure.

    • khal spencer Says:

      Interestingly, WWII became the world’s greatest carnage (that we have good data on) because the French and Brits didn’t promptly march into Germany and perp walk Schicklegruber out of the Chancellery when Hitler re-militarized the Rhineland in, I think, 1936. Hitler’s battle plan if the Allies had moved on this clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles was to turn around and run like hell, according to William Shirer in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”

      So that failure of will, and the later one at Munich, are the two “lessons learned” we always hear about when someone says you don’t give a dictator an inch, or he will take a mile. Hindsight has such clarity, though, doesn’t it? As do some-all fallacies. Gotta agree with Larry. Let’s ’em run back sales.

      • khal spencer Says:

        “bake sales”. Sheesh. I need an editor.

      • Larry T. Says:

        Indeed. Dig beyond the patriotic “greatest generation” bull__it and you can find all kinds of reasons WWII shoulda/coulda been avoided. They’re all the same…but we’re convinced violence is the only way to solve problems…but how long do these problems stay “solved”?

      • Steve O Says:

        A DoD bake sale would require 35 billion shit-tonnes of muffins.

        Stumbled into this: DARPA has 100 employees but a $3B a year budget. That’s some serious Uncle Sugar magic money.

      • psobrien Says:

        Well guys, I agree that almost every war can be avoided.

        The gift that my father’s generation gave us was much more that victory in WW II. It was what came after the war that I value most. They went to college, formed strong unions, built things that the world wanted, and created a strong and robust middle class that probably most of us grew up in. If you were willing to work hard for 40 hours a week, learn a trade, profession, or skill, you could make a decent living.

        I assume that most DARPA funding is OPA (procurement) money not OMA (operation and maintenance money) which pays most, if not all, of the salaries for those 100 people. OPA money is almost plentiful in DoD budgets when compared to OMA. You know Congress just loves to feed defense contractors. You would think them sumbitches was at a Greek restaurant screaming more OPA, OPA, OPA. Greatest example I can think of is building a brand new big building on Ft. Huachuca while the road in front of it was falling apart. Building was OPA money, road maintenance was OMA money. I’m sure Steve O has more examples of this nonsense.

  10. Ryan Says:

    Well said as always POG, my pops was USAF stationed in Morocco during the Korean “conflict”. He passed in 2012 and I wish he was around for me to say thanks to. Thanks to the Colonel as well.

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