It's amazing what you can discover on the Web, when you Google the name of someone you knew over fifty years ago.
The above link took me to a biography "Stoney" must have uploaded when the Internet was still in diapers, before he passed away. His simple, clean prose speaks mostly about his military service as a Navy Signalman during World War II. After landing in Morocco, Operation Torch, he participated in major Pacific landings at Tarawa, Bouganville, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal.
"Five D-days, five H-hours" he told me one day, as if I had the slightest inkling what that meant. He was a military hero, but he never talked about the war until after I'd looked him up in '86 during a visit.
Stoney told me about being exposed to fire while sending semaphore messages (with flags) about battle status from shore to ship.
He told of his ride ashore at Iwo Jima aboard a landing craft, remembering a stringy young blonde Marine without a shirt, gun or helmet. "Where's your gear?" Henry asked him, incredulous. "There'll be plenty to spare when I get there," the boy said.
But what I remember most about Stoney has nothing to do with war.
Stoney was my scoutmaster at the children's home where I grew up. Troop Three was our designation, in the Arrowhead District in Fort Worth, Texas. This dark and muscular Navy veteran was a father figure for me and my rag-tag teenaged cohorts. Our partial uniforms, acquired with donations, church funds mostly, were seldom more than a shirt, cap and bandana. Our camping gear the same. We had troop meetings twice a month, on Thursdays, and went camping the first weekend of every month. Canoe trips down the Brazos are among my fondest memories, and I haven't forgotten some of the knots he taught me--the square knot, the sheephshank, the bowline (out of the hole, around the tree, back into the hole).
Although grace was said before every meal on campouts, Stoney wasn't the preachy type; he lived his lessons, and they became inseparable to the man I lived to be: a reverence for nature, respect and compassion for others regardless of race or station, gratitude and appreciation for the simple things. Humility. The list goes on.
War can bring out the worst in man, and the best, but heroism comes in many forms.
(You can read about Stoney in one of my stories, "The Adoptimist.")
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