Who’s Packing Your Parachute?

Compiled by HB Auld, Jr.

(Editor’s Note: The following was posted on Facebook by Paul Harrington, but it has been around in many different forms, including a book, for years. It is NOT an original post)

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent six years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.” Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?” Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory — he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

“…recognize people who pack your parachutes.”

COLONEL CHARLES PLUMB

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.

I am sending you this as my way of thanking you for your part in packing my parachute. And I hope you will send it on to those who have helped pack yours!

Sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes to us without writing a word. Maybe this could explain it: When you are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do — you forward jokes. And to let you know that you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still loved, you are still cared for, guess what you get? A forwarded joke.

So my friend, next time when you get a joke, don’t think that you’ve been sent just another forwarded joke, but that you’ve been thought of today and your friend on the other end of your computer wanted to send you a smile, just helping you pack your parachute.


South Vietnam Falls to the Vietcong 47 Years Ago This Past April 30

by HB Auld, Jr.

Forty-seven years ago on April 30, 1975, the capital city of Saigon, South Vietnam, finally fell and with it, the Vietnam Conflict was over.

Throughout 1974 and early-1975, the South Vietnamese steadily lost ground and the US military gave little support. US President Richard Nixon had promised the South Vietnamese support, but by early 1975, Nixon had resigned, Gerald Ford was now President, and he failed to convince Congress to uphold Nixon’s promise of support. The South Vietnamese, with no US support, rapidly fell back in total disarray.

Emboldened, the North Vietnamese capitalized on theses light defenses, taking one area of South Vietnam after another. By April 27, the North Vietnamese had completely encircled Saigon and prepared for a final assault and a complete take over.

When they attacked at dawn on April 30, they met little resistance. North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace and the Vietnam Conflict ended.

North Vietnamese Colonel Bui Tin accepted the city’s surrender from General Duong Van Minh. Tin explained to Minh: “You have nothing to fear. Between Vietnamese, there are no victors and no vanquished. Only the Americans have been beaten. If you are patriots, consider this a moment of joy. The war for our country is over.” (The History Channel)

With the fall of the capital city and South Vietnam, the US had spent more than 10 years and lost more than 58,000 young men and women who were Killed in Action. Thousands more were sent home, maimed and injured for life. Years later, a black granite “monument” to the dead slashed the green hillside of Washington, D.C., near the Lincoln Memorial. It stands there today, along with three bronze, life-size soldiers, as a reminder of one of the bloodiest and ignominious periods in US history.


Navy Corpsman Awarded the Medal Honor This Week in 1945

by Guest Author, Tara Ross

During this week in 1945, a [US Navy] Corpsman is awarded the Medal of Honor. Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen’s citation that day described him as “stouthearted and indomitable” for his perseverance at Iwo Jima.

Wahlen wasn’t really supposed to be a corpsman in the first place. His training was in mechanics, and he’d wanted to serve as an aircraft mechanic. Nevertheless, the military needed medical personnel, so that’s what he trained to do.

When he arrived at Iwo Jima in February 1945, it was his first time in combat. He was tasked with assisting an invading Marine battalion. The young corpsman was worried that he wouldn’t have what it took.

“I couldn’t imagine me being a Corpsman,” he later told an interviewer, “and when they had casualties, [it was] my job was to go out and take care of them. And it concerned me and I think it was the first time I ever prayed in my life. . . . [I figured if I ever] need help, this is when it is.”

Rough days ahead

The days that followed were rough. Wahlen would be on the island, supporting his Marines, for close to two weeks. Throughout those weeks, Whalen repeatedly stepped in to help his fellow Marines, even when he himself was already injured. At one point, he even went to the assistance of another battalion, helping 14 of those boys before returning to his own.

Whalen later recounted one of these experiences. The Marines were advancing up a hill when the Japanese opened fire. Our Marines hit the ground, looking for the source of the problem.

“Finally, we got word to pull off the hill,” Whalen said. “But there was two casualties over on my right flank.” He crawled through fire to get to them, but both men were already dead. Just then a grenade went off too close to his face. “And the shock from that kind of temporarily knocked me unconscious,” he described. “I laid there for a minute or two and kind of got my bearings back and I could feel the blood in this one eye—couldn’t see out of it.” He administered first aid to himself, then immediately turned in the direction of another Marine who was calling for help.

He wouldn’t be able to get to that Marine without taking out the machine gun nest in the area. Naturally, that’s what he decided to do.

He yelled over to another Marine, hollering for a grenade. He didn’t have any of his own, because he was a Corpsman.“

“…I got my knife out and straightened that pin out and pulled it off.”

AUTHOR TARA ROSS

I decided I’d crawl up the hill and see if I [could] knock out that emplacement,” he said. He made his way to the machine gun nest. “I was going to lob the grenade into the hole. And so, I always remember I went to pull the ring out and the ring come off and the pin stayed in . . . . I got my knife out and straightened that pin out and pulled it off.” By then, he was pretty close to the Japanese, and he let the grenade fly.

It worked! Whalen was able to crawl back to the Marine, eventually getting him to safety.

Whalen’s worst injury came on the last day that he was there, on March 13.

He was looking for injured Marines when a mortar hit too close to him. “I heard [the Marines] holler and so I went to stand up to get to them and fell down,” he later recounted. “I couldn’t walk. And I looked down and my boot had been torn off. I’d been hit in the leg. And I later found out my leg had been broke.”

You don’t think a broken leg stopped him from helping those Marines, do you? Because it didn’t. He bandaged his leg and gave himself a shot of morphine. Then he was on his way again, ready to help the Marines that he’d found just before the mortar blast. He worked his way even further into enemy territory, continuing to help Marines before he was finally evacuated.

The broken leg would finally send Wahlen to a hospital to recuperate. After the war, he received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S Truman.

Greatest accomplishment ever

Many years later he was asked what the Medal of Honor meant to him. He was gracious and humble, as so many of our Medal recipients are.

“Well, it’s certainly the greatest accomplishment that I ever did,” he said simply. “And I think it’s important [to not] only be proud of it, but don’t do anything to disgrace it, either. And I tried to do that.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Wahlen went on to serve in the Korean War and the Vietnam Conflict where he was injured once again, this time while serving as a US Army Major. George E. Wahlen passed away June 5, 2009.


Guest author, Tara Ross, is a Texas mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

History posts are copyright © 2013-2021 by Tara Ross. Please use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting.

#TDIH#OTD#AmericanHistory#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Hero Navy Chaplain Dies 54 Years Ago Today: September 4, 1967

By Guest Author, Tara Ross

On this day in 1967, a Navy chaplain makes the ultimate sacrifice as he ministers to his Marines during the Vietnam War. Father Vincent Capodanno would receive a Medal of Honor for his selfless actions on this day so long ago.

Father Capodanno has since been declared a “Servant of God” by the Catholic Church, and he is now being considered for sainthood.

Capodanno was no ordinary military chaplain! In fact, he was affectionately dubbed “The Grunt Padre” by his men because of his insistence upon sharing their burdens and duties—however dangerous they might be.

“He was not a religious leader who did his job and then returned to the comfort of his own circle,” Capodanno’s biographer writes. “He lived as a Grunt Marine. Wherever they went, he went. Whatever burdens they had to carry, he shared the load. No problem was too large or too small to take to Father Vincent—he was available to them day and night.”

That approach would cost Capodanno his life during Operation Swift, a Vietnam War operation during the fall of 1967. On September 4, a portion of Capodanno’s battalion was ambushed. The conflict turned into an all-out battle.

As a chaplain, Capodanno could easily have remained at the company command post. All things considered, it was a much safer place to be! But it also went against the grain for Capodanno to stay in a place of relative safety when his men were suffering. He wanted to be with them.

He “ran through an open area raked with gunfire, directly to the beleaguered platoon,”

MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION

He “ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon,” his Medal citation reports. “Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded.”

During the course of his ministrations, Capodanno was seriously wounded in his arms and legs. His right hand was partially severed. And yet he continued on.

Capodanno was at the side of Sergeant Lawrence Peters when Peters passed away. The Sergeant had acted so heroically during the battle that he would receive his own Medal of Honor!

Peters did not have to die alone because of Capodanno.

Another Marine, Corporal Ray Harton, was wounded that day. Father Capodanno found him as he lay bleeding there on the battlefield. “As I closed my eyes, someone touched me,” Harton later reported. “When I opened my eyes, he looked directly at me. It was Father Capodanno. Everything got still: no noise, no firing, no screaming. A peace came over me that is unexplainable to this day. In a quiet, calm voice, he cupped the back of my head and said, ‘Stay quiet Marine. You will be okay. Someone will be here to help you soon. God is with us all this day.’”

The end came when Capodanno noticed a corpsman struggling with a wound to his leg. An enemy machine gun was still trained on the young man. “Fr. C. ran out to him and positioned himself between the injured boy and the automatic weapon,” Lieutenant Joseph E. Pilon later related. “Suddenly, the weapon opened up again and this time riddled Fr. C. from the back of his head to the base of his spine—and with his third Purple Heart of the day—Fr. C. went Home.”

When Father Capodanno’s body was recovered, it had 27 bullet wounds in it.

On this Labor Day weekend, perhaps it is appropriate to remember a man who labored so diligently for his God, his family of Marines, and his country.

RIP, Father Capodanno.


EDITOR’S NOTE:

Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.

History posts are copyright © 2013-2021 by Tara Ross. Please use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting.

#TDIH#OTD#AmericanHistory#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Vietnam Veterans Day, 2021

by HB Auld, Jr.

Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day, a day set aside in 2017 to honor those men and women who served “in country” in the Republic of Vietnam and its waters during the 20-year war there.

March 29 was chosen as the day to honor these men and women because that is the day of the final withdrawal of US Forces from South Vietnam in 1973.

Since respect and combat support wasn’t immediately given to those who served after the war ended, this day was founded in 2017 to finally offer that respect to everyone involved.

This is the day set aside by Congress to “Thank a Vietnam Veteran” for his or her service. God bless my brothers and sisters who served in that terrible war in Vietnam.


Today is the 56th Anniversary of the Capture of the First Prisoner of War in Viet Nam

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by Tara Ross, Guest Author

On this day in 1964, a U.S. Navy pilot arrives at the soon-to-be-infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” LTJG Everett Alvarez, Jr. would spend a stunning 3,113 days in captivity, making him one of America’s longest-held POWs.

Alvarez’s troubles began on August 5. His plane took a hit during a bombing run, and he was forced to bail out. Mere minutes later, he was captured by Vietnamese fishermen.

Alvarez found himself in a rather tricky situation. Was he a prisoner-of-war with all the protections of that status? The North Vietnamese claimed that he was only a common criminal. (War had not been declared.) Similarly, how should he answer questions? At first, Alvarez gave only his name, rank, and serial number. But he soon realized that Vietnamese authorities had information obtained from the American media. How did that change what he could or couldn’t say?

For months, Alvarez had nothing to rely upon except his own wits. There wasn’t even another American POW around. He was barely surviving in a small cell on a starvation diet.

“Sometimes I lifted the cover off a plate and found a chicken head floating in grease,” he wrote, “or in a slimy stew or soup smelling of drainwater. At other times an animal hoof . . . . More than once a blackbird lay feet up on the plate, its head and feathers intact and the eyes open.”

Alvarez implemented strategies to sustain himself. He scratched a cross into a wall and hosted his own Catholic Mass. He etched the passage of time on walls. He did complex math problems and played chess against himself, just to keep his brain working. He had daily cleaning rituals, which (sort of) warded off the cat-sized rats that roamed around.

Other POWs began to arrive in 1965.

Their arrival made Alvarez’s life better—and worse. On one hand, he had companionship. The men developed a tap code that worked through walls. Their communications system, Alvarez would say, “became our lifeline . . . . It fueled our morale and stiffened our backbone. Above all, it kept us informed . . . . To be forewarned was to be forearmed.”

On the other hand, interrogations got a lot worse.

The North Vietnamese wanted letters and recordings for propaganda purposes. Americans were tortured if they refused to cooperate. On one occasion, Alvarez was told to write an apology. His arms were contorted and painfully bound until he finally complied. “For the first time in my life,” he later wrote, “I felt sheer hatred . . . . It took a few hours before I could hold the pencil and when I did, my writing looked like a drunkard’s scrawl. . . . I took pains to misspell words to make the confession as phony as possible.”

The arm torture left the skin on Alvarez’s hands deadened and black. Natural color didn’t return for two years.

On another occasion, Americans were marched through a frenzied crowd. They’d been tethered to each other, defenseless, as the mob madly beat and kicked them. “Our emaciated bodies, lacking nutrition, sunlight and exercise for so long, were ill-equipped to withstand this kind of ordeal,” Alvarez concluded.

The treatment of prisoners improved, but not until after Ho Chi Minh died in 1969. Finally, in 1973, the POWs were released.

Alvarez had been a captive since the very beginning—but he’d also been a pillar of strength for everyone else. “[A]ll the POWs, looked up to Ev,” one said. “He was one of those optimists who always thought we would get out the next day.”

Unfortunately, homecomings weren’t always so rosy. For Alvarez, the difficult news concerned his wife. During his absence, she obtained a divorce—and a baby with a new husband.

Fortunately, this hero’s story has a happy ending: Alvarez remarried, earned graduate degrees, and founded a wildly successful company.


Author’s Note: If you enjoy these history posts, please see my note below.

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2020 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the share feature instead of cutting/pasting.

#TDIH#OTD#History#USHistory#liberty#freedom#ShareTheHistory

Guest author, Tara Ross, is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! Stay tuned here for updates on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.