Upon graduation from New Richland High School, I knew as a farm boy I didn’t want to farm. A fellow farm boy, John Hanson, felt the same way.
We found out that if we joined the U.S. Navy at age 17, we would be discharged just before turning 21, and then Uncle Sam would help support us four years in college to get a degree. We said “Deal!” and off we went to Great Lakes, Ill. for boot camp.
At boot camp, we were tested to see what we might qualify to do as U.S. Navy enlisted men. My result was Naval Intelligence, or spying on Russia.
This required an extensive background check. I passed the check and was off to Intelligence School after boot camp. (I later found out Gene Dodge in New Richland was one of the persons giving me the green light.)
Both John and I received four-year degrees from Mankato after our Navy tour.
After graduating from the Naval Intelligence School in California, I was sent to a Naval base of about 300 in Japan for 30 months. There were military personnel (all men) from England, Canada, France, Australia, the Scandinavian countries, and the United States, plus a few other countries.
About the second week there, an order came through over the loudspeaker system for all hands to report to the Chapel on the double. I was assigned the job of running with a heavy rope across the rooftop to a person on the ground, who then helped stake the rope into the ground.
The person next to me and I exchanged introductions. He was Tony Blare from England.
When the Chapel was secured, we were ordered to the basement of our barracks as the typhoon was imminent. As Tony and I talked in the basement, the All-Clear signal was given, as the typhoon had changed course. Tony went into a tirade about the stupid U.S. Navy saving a chapel first.
The last Easter sunrise service while we were in Japan, I asked Tony to join me. (By then we were good buds, he the non-believer and me the believer.)
We were in full uniform as we were bused to an open field facing east. As we got off the bus, we were given one sheet of music and told to put it in our pocket. We were lined up in two lines and parade marched to the east end of the field and ordered to stand at attention.
Cymbals started clashing and just as the sun came up, a booming voice said “Present Music!” We did, and sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Upon completion of the singing, an order of “About Face, Parade March” was given, back to the bus. (There was many a tear shed that early morning by everyone, including Tony.)
As we left Japan to be discharged, we exchanged military caps. The years passed very fast, with Tony asking me to visit his beloved England and me asking Tony to visit my beloved Beaver Lake.
This January, I received a telephone call and a male voice said, “This is Tony Blare. I’m on an English goodwill tour of the United States. I know where your beloved Beaver Lake is. Please meet me there at 7:30 a.m. in the Parking Lot on Wednesday, January 23, for your birthday, with my military cap.”
We met about 7:30 a.m., exchanged caps, and Tony said, “Listen to the instructions on the tape in my Embassy car.” The instructions were exactly the same as that Easter service in Japan, including the cymbals.
We got back to his Embassy car, exchanged caps again, a big hug, a handshake, and Tony said, “Thanks for making me a believer. I’ll see you in our next life.”
Yes, there were tears shed by both of us as Tony drove away.
Bob is a retired AAL (Aid Association for Lutherans) agent, currently working on his master’s degree in Volunteering. His wife, Genie, is a retired RN, currently working on her doctor’s degree in Volunteering. They have two children, Deb in North Carolina, and Dan in Vermont. Bob says if you enjoy his column, let him know. If you don’t enjoy it, keep on reading, it can get worse. Words of wisdom: There is always room for God.