Posts Tagged ‘Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady’

Memorial Day 2017

May 29, 2017

Mementos from wars fought by other men.

What a strange time to be honoring those Americans who’ve sacrificed everything — lives, fortunes, sacred honor — on the altar of freedom.

We’ve thanked them for their service by installing as commander-in-chief a creature who has sacrificed nothing. Not his life, which he still lives mostly as he pleases. Certainly not his fortune, about which we know next to nothing. And sacred honor? Puh-leeze. He has none.

Since he has no shame, we must bear it in his stead. Shame on us.

As a child I desperately wanted a uniform. It’s probably the only reason I submitted, briefly and without distinction, to a tour of duty with the Cub Scouts.

What I really craved was a uniform like my dad wore to work on Randolph AFB, that tan U.S. Air Force summer kit. But the old man gave me a stern talking-to about that, explaining that uniforms were something to be earned, not bought.

Harold Joseph O’Grady certainly earned his kit, beginning with flying Gooney Birds out of New Guinea during World War II. So did his brother, Charles Declan O’Grady, tail gunner in a B-29, also in the Pacific Theatre.

Mom’s dad served, too, in WWI, but of him we know next to nothing. Both grandfathers were long dead when we kids came around, and neither of our parents were inclined to discuss their respective early histories in any real detail. It was as though they had never existed apart from each other.

Children of war and depression, they ensured that their offspring would have an easier row to hoe. We didn’t get the best of everything, but lacked for nothing, especially when it came to education, from kindergarten to cap and gown. We didn’t get any little million-dollar loans, but neither I nor my sister had to sweat the college debt that cripples today’s youngsters trying to find their way in the world.

And a good thing it was, too, because neither of us has exactly killed it on the golden-toilet scale used to measure success and failure. Sis has spent her life helping people navigate the murky waters of our social-services system. I, as you know, was a minor cog in the fake-news machine before deciding to hang out my own shingle as an artisanal purveyor of free-range, non-GMO, sustainably sourced, gluten-free, 100 percent organic designer bullshit.

Neither of us followed in our father’s footsteps. But we’ve known men and women who served, from World War II through the apparently endless war in Afghanistan. And the least of these stands head and shoulders above the preening back-alley huckster who purports to command them between pep rallies, nest-feathering, and rounds of golf played from the cart. Stamina!

We owe these people a debt, and we keep reneging on it. In this, at least, we are well represented in the White House.

Memorial Day 2016: A namesake’s service

May 30, 2016
From the Perry (Fla.) News-Herald, dated May 23, 2008.

From the Perry (Fla.) News-Herald, dated May 23, 2008.

There was bad blood on my dad’s side of the family. We never learned the cause of it, and while we met his mother, sister and various cousins from the O’Grady clan, his brother remained a mystery.

The two men didn’t speak for something like a quarter century, and while a reunion was finally arranged while I was off at college, I don’t have the impression that the hatchet was ever completely buried, though my uncle and I share a middle name.

Dad rarely discussed his World War II service beyond the light bits, like occasionally ferrying some celebrity around, and while we got some hints as regards his war years from Mom, I came to think of her as something of a fabulist, a storyteller, putting a bit of spin on every tale. As a copy editor I retained a healthy skepticism.

But whaddaya know? While casting about for a fresh take on the old man’s war for today’s Memorial Day post, I stumbled across a newspaper report confirming pretty much everything I’d heard about his brother, Charles Declan O’Grady.

Like Dad, Uncle Dec was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, but assigned to the 504th Bombardment Group, 313th Bomb Wing, operating from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. While Dad flew C-47s out of New Guinea, Uncle Dec was occupying the other end of the aircraft as a tail gunner in a B-29, the “Dinah Might.”

The Kawasaki Ki-45 "Nick," one of which my uncle put in the drink a day before he wound up there himself.

The Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nick,” one of which my uncle put in the drink a day before he wound up there himself.

He was credited with destroying a Japanese fighter during a mission to Aichi Prefecture in Japan, on June 25, 1945. The very next day, Dec’s bomber was shot down over Ise Wan bay, near Nagoya, one of the largest centers of the Japanese aircraft industry; he bailed out and was rescued by a Navy sub, one of seven crew members to survive.

Twice wounded during the war, Dec was honorably discharged in August 1945, returned to his law practice in Perry, Fla., and eventually was elected Taylor County judge.

Dad, as you will recall, stayed in the Air Force until his 30 was up; he didn’t retire until I was in my first year of college.

And I didn’t meet Uncle Dec until Dad’s funeral, eight years later.

Temporary quarters

November 11, 2015

When people think of the sacrifices made by the men and women in our armed forces, they tend to think in terms of deployment, combat and the strong likelihood of getting one’s arse shot off.

But there’s another forfeit that goes unnoticed — home ownership. While the military defends the nation’s homes and hearths, the citizens in uniform often must put their own American dreams on hold.

The old man (back row, right) in one of his earliest temporary billets, in New Guinea during World War II.

The old man (back row, right) in one of his earliest temporary billets, in New Guinea during World War II.

I don’t recall knowing any homeowners as a kid. We lived in Maryland, Virginia, Canada and Texas when I was a punk, and the old man either rented or arranged for quarters on base.

Sure, it’s possible to own a home while in the service, and we didn’t move around nearly as much as some folks did, but renting is still easier, even for officers. If you suddenly find yourself transferred from Ottawa to, say, Randolph AFB outside San Antonio, well, you have a house to sell. And in another country, too.

This shit rolls downhill to the dependents. When we lived in Ottawa I wanted a tree house. Nope, said the old man. That’s not our tree.

Between rental houses we got to experience the joys of Visiting Officers Quarters (VOQ), which were the early prototypes for what would become the Motel 6 chain. At least one unhappy customer said in 2008 that it was an open question whether the VOQ at Fort Drum were “preferable to field conditions.” I recall a few that were more KOA than VOQ, for sure.

But all things come to he who waits, and in 1967, when we were transferred from Randolph to Bibleburg, Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady finally got to buy his house (after 25 years of service and one final, astoundingly long run of stays in VOQ, BOQ and actual shitbox motels on Knob Hill, which was seedy even then).

He got to enjoy it for all of 13 years, and after that he took up permanent quarters at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

So here’s to all the troops waiting patiently for their slice of American pie. Try to save ’em some.

 

 

Like, wow … like, bow wow

October 28, 2015

My old man was a Republican. Onliest D he ever pulled a lever for that I know of was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, because like him JFK was a Mick and a mackerel-snapper.

But I’m starting to think that if I dug the auld fella up, and reanimated him with a shot of Edison medicine and another of Viktor’s va-va-voom-vodka, Zombie Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady would find it very challenging indeed to support any of the shower of bastards on show tonight in the People’s Republic of Boulder (where, I might add, he said I would never go to school, calling it “Hippietown, USA.”).

I think he’d sooner unload a B-24 over the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, or call Maureen O’Hara a wagon.

I mean, I’ve never seen a junkyard that was all dumb, mean dogs and no junk. Where the hell’s the junk?