Veterans Day

A couple-3 weeks ago my daughter-in-law asked me if I would like to “submit something,” reflecting on my thoughts on Veterans Day.  Interesting.  So, for what it’s worth…

Veterans Day is a very “personal day” for me.  It’s a day of reflection, a day of gratitude; a day of honoring those who have served and those who are serving.  

Every year about this time I drag out a simple metal bracelet I have.  I don’t wear it often, but I do on 11/11 every year.  It simply says:

04 Arthur S. Mearns
USAF 11-11-66 NVN/KIA

The bracelet I have today is actually a ‘replacement bracelet.’  I had my first ‘Art Mearns’ bracelet in 1967-68 and virtually ‘wore it out.’  

I did not know Major Mearns; yet having served a 20-year career myself, I know him very well.  I was still in college when he was shot down over North Vietnam.  I have no idea why I chose his bracelet; I just did.  In later years I came to learn he had been in my father-in-law’s squadron at the time he was hit, and that my wife used to babysit for his daughters.  Somehow that made his bracelet even more special to me…

About 12-13 years ago I was on my way home from a ‘noon meeting.’  It was a bright sunny day.  I have no idea why the thought came to mind, but all at once there it was: Colonel Samuel G. Porterfield ‘walked through my mind.’           

I did not know Col. Porterfield either; my Mom worked for him as a secretary.  Col. Porterfield was the Vice Wing Commander at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico at the time.  He and his crew died in a B-52 crash on 1 Feb. 1960; I was 13 years old at the time, and really couldn’t make much sense of it all.  The crash was on a Monday night and that following Friday night I remember the drinking at the Officer’s Club.  (The O’Club pool was just outside the bar at the time, and it was convenient for our folks to drop us in the pool for ‘Happy Hour.’)  I remember a lot of drinking at the time, and again, it made no sense to me…

And then, on that bright sunny day, 12-13 years ago, while west-bound on Garden Road, it hit me:  Colonel Porterfield and his crew gave their lives for me that night!  I had suppressed that thought for so many years; and now here it was, and the tears just began flowing.  I had to pull off the side of the road; I couldn’t see through my tears, and grief.  I cried hard that day – and not just for Col. Porterfield and his crew, but for all those who have sacrificed their lives for me.  Art Mearns, Dick Bong, Raoul Lufbery, Tom Widerquist, and so many, many others.  I just ‘let it out…’       

On the “gratitude” side of the coin, I am so privileged to have served with so many men and women; so many Veterans of  “Honor.”  Everyday people who chose “to serve.”  Whether it be for just 2-3-4 years, or a career, they chose to serve.  

In 1994 I was dealing with a very troubling personal crisis.  Two friends from the Air Force just showed up on my door step – not to “fix me,” but to just be here with me.  One came from Atlanta, GA., the other from Gig Harbor, WA.  I didn’t ask them to come, I couldn’t.  They just came.    

In 2002 my dear friend Mikey looked after my Mother as she was dying, before I could get to San Antonio.  He did it without reservation.  I will always be indebted to him for that… 

Veterans; ‘everyday people,’ yet very extraordinary people.

People occasionally tell me today, “Thank you for your service.”  I acknowledge their kindness, but I am yet uncomfortable with it.  It was my privilege to have served this great nation of ours.  Not everyone chooses to serve, and not everyone “makes it.”  It was truly an honor of mine – to have worn the uniform of the United States Air Force for 20 years!  And I won’t ever forget it…

So, on Veterans Day, I will once again put on Major Mearn’s bracelet.  I will begin my day with a quiet prayer for those of us who have fallen; for those who have now gone before us; and for those of you who continue to serve.  I will go about my day with my head held perhaps a little higher and my shoulders a bit further back.  And a deep sense of pride for having had the Honor of serving with some very extraordinary folks…    

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11 Responses to Veterans Day

  1. Gary Banks says:

    Re: Art Mearns. He was my flight commander in the 80th TFS at Itazuke and Yokota from 1963-1965. He now rests in Arlington. He was brought home by Lt. Col. Giles Gainer, his best friend and former F-105 Weasel pilot.

    Happy Holidays

    • Cheeta17 says:

      If you send your address to me, you can have mine…

      Bob Holliker

    • Jim Killian says:


    • Dianne Hetrick says:

      Have a bracelet that came in donations to our upcoming church yard sale — would be happy to send it to you, free of course, if you still would like it. God bless him and his service. Dianne in PA

      • Cheeta17 says:

        I would be honored to have it… My address is: Bob Holliker, 10324 Obee Road, Whitehouse OH 43571…. and, thank you! Bob

    • Cheeta17 says:

      Hey Gary,

      Hope that you are well… did you know Bobby Mead?

  2. Gary Banks says:

    Art Mearns was my flight commander in the 80th TFS from 1963-1965, at Itazuke and Yokota. He is now in Arlington. He was brought home by his best friend, Lt. Col. Giles Gainer, a F-105 Weasel pilot.

    • Just ran across the post, was in 80th TFS, when you were there, worked in the office, I have a picture of you and then Capt Mearns, will be happy to send it ot you. I miss my time with the squadron, and still remember the clothing and other items the squadron gave me when my son was born, he is now a LTCol in the US army, all of you guys were my heros.

      • Cheeta17 says:

        Good Morning,

        Is your comment here for Gary Banks? I never knew Art Mearns… If it is, I’ll forward it on to him…


        Bob Holliker

  3. Ellen says:

    I too wore/still have Art’s bracelet. Bought it from a gal in Jr or HS selling them thru VIVA. Saw he too was from NY, not far from where I lived either. Think of him often & try to leave a remembrance when I can at site below:

  4. Cheeta17 says:

    Monique, I just saw your address here. Apparently you are on “auto-approve,” and your comment/address came in without me noticing it. I will package the bracelet straight away, and get it in the mail to you. Sorry, Bob

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