My Uncle Ted was a bona-fide hero, but I never thought about that when he was around because he was always too busy making us laugh. They called him Beady-Eyed Baader, because he often saw the enemy planes coming before the radar picked them up. No kidding. He tell his wingman there was a bogey on their two o'clock and seconds later, the radar would beep.
|Uncle Ted receiving a medal.|
Nobody in the family has seen this photo before.
I just found it. On the internet.
Uncle Teddy saw combat in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, but that was never what he talked about. More often, his stories were about things like how they learned not to use heat-seeking missles around camels or the time the guy in his squadron discovered that methane gas was still gas and that it wasn't a good idea to light your farts on fire. All your hair will burn right off, even your eyebrows. When I was a child, I spent hours imagining the logistics of that escapade.
I'm pretty sure that was his intention in telling it to me. To be sure, Uncle Teddy loved a tall tale.
My Dad's birthday is on January 1st, and at midnight on New Year's Eve every year, the phone would ring and it would be Uncle Teddy. In about thirty seconds, my Dad would burst into peals of laughter and wouldn't stop until he hung up the phone. "What did he tell you?" I'd always ask, but my Dad would shake his head. "I can't repeat it, honey." (That only made me want to know even more.)
|Uncle Ted is the guy on the right. He always looked like he was about to laugh.|
I just found this photo after searching a little while on the internet.
(I can't wait to show my Dad.)
And then there's my favorite story. When he was a young man, he was stationed in Stratford with his family. One foggy November evening, he left the base for home (in a 1950 Ford, my Dad is always careful to note) and he came across the bridge.
He was so startled he drove himself straight into a ditch. "What the...?" he yelled into the darkness. (I'm sure he added more colorful invective, but when he told this story to a fourteen-year-old me, he edited a bit.)
More firecrackers went off. Out of nowhere, a gang of young men appeared wearing masks and carrying torches. He had no idea what was going on that November fifth (See Gunpowder, treason, and plot if you don't know about Guy Fawkes either).
|A typical Guy Fawkes Day mask|
That's why I always remember my Uncle Ted on the fifth of November. Because, as he said, only he could survive three Pacific wars only to get blown off the road by drunk Englishmen.