I met Ed about Twenty years ago while running a bar in St Augustine, Florida. St Augustine has the distinction of being the oldest city in the U.S. and has a cast of characters that occupy this small southern town that looks like the casting call for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Even Ken Kesey on a full blown acid trip couldn’t have imagined some of these characters. That being said, Ed isn’t one of those. Ed can only be described as a quiet older man that has a grandfatherly quality to him. He is quiet , as I said and would go out of his way to help a perfect stranger. One day Ed asked me if I could help him clean out his garage. I readily agreed knowing that Ed had a heart condition and it was the middle of summer in Florida. For those who are not familiar with the weather in Florida in the summer, Imagine Hell and add humidity so thick, you feel like your standing in a steam bath. I knew Ed well enough to know that if Ed didn’t get help he would do it on his own and I didn’t want to see anything bad happen, so I made time and told him I would be there on Saturday morning.
I arrived on Saturday as promised feeling a little hung over from the night before, but I knew I would sweat that out in about fifteen minutes in the heat and humidity. Even at 9 a.m. the temperature was climbing past 90’F. and that garage had to be 100. Before I started sweating through my cloths I set to moving boxes out of the garage so Ed could go through them and decide what to throw away. I looked over from my work to see Ed staring at a couple of old boxes kinda poking through them with an odd look on his face. I asked “Hey what’s up Ed?” he just looks at me and kinda half smiles, and says” Just some stuff from when I was in the Army.” I asked him if he wanted to save it?” Ed just shrugs and “I don’t think so, my kids don’t care” He looked kinda sad but My interest was peaked so I asked about his service. Ed laughed and says “Which time?” I knew immediately there was a story and I needed a break. We decided to grab a couple of boxes, Crack some beers and Ed began his story.
Early in 1941 I wanted to join the marines and fight the Japanese so I went down to enlist, I was only 17. They turned me down and told me to come back in a year. I could’t wait so I went to the Army recruiter and lied about my age.( He used his dead brothers birth certificate.) They signed me up and off to boot camp I went. The first time I saw action was at Guadalcanal. We came in after the Marines landed for support. I was miles from the fighting and I wanted to go to the front. So I removed the Dog Tags and uniform from a dead Marine and hopped on the next supply truck going to the front. It was pretty chaotic but at least I got to see some action. Got in a little trouble and they sent me back to my unit when they found out who I really was. I stopped him there and said in disbelief “You were at Guadalcanal?” “Sure”says Ed “And a lot of other places”. Ed reaches into the box and pulls out a native mask and says I got this at Tinian, And this came from Palaus, and this came from the battle of Luzon, and these masks came from Okinawa. I sat there in shock because all the boxes around us were filled with little mementos of Eds service, and he was going to throw them away. I couldn’t let that happen so I asked him if I could have some. Ed new I was a military history nut and especially the Pacific Theater and he could see me drooling over the stories attached to each item. Then it hit me. Of all the people Ed could have asked to help him, He picked me the history nut. I got played , but I didn’t care. I started to ask about each item and Ed would go into detail about where it came from which battle he was in and what happened during the battle.
The reason there were so many boxes was Ed didn’t just fight in WWII he also fought in Korea, and Vietnam. and when he finally retired he went back to Vietnam for a certain government agency that shall remain nameless. As Ed put it “We weren’t flying milk into Laos”. After we had spent a considerable time with Ed talking and me listening Ed hands me an old copy of Yank magazine and said that everything in the story was true.
You see the article was about Ed, The Army’s Zaniest Hero. What a story you can read excerpts of the article in the News article Turning the Rules Upside Down” in the St Augustine Record http://staugustine.com/stories/042307/news_4550948.shtml#.Vpht7n0rLnA I added a link, Its worth the read. I treasure my gifts from Ed and yes my house looks like a War Museum, but I don’t care. I know the stories behind each and every one. Just a side note. Ed raced motorcycles, Started the Army parachute team, and was the welterweight champion second division 1948. Ed also has 8 purple hearts silver stars, Bronze stars and Presidential Citations. Just an amazing guy with an amazing life. I miss you Ed, Cheers!