Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Lasting Friendship

Many years ago I had the great privilege of being Executive Officer (XO) of Battery M, 4th Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. We were stationed on Okinawa but made two training trips to Camp Fuji, Japan, near the base of the beautiful, majestic Mt. Fuji. We were commanded by Captain Robert L. Adams (above, right), a splendid CO who had earlier been seriously wounded in Vietnam, and who knew his business as an artillery professional. I was Captain Adams’ second in command, frankly a job I still consider to be the best I ever had.
We trained hard, and if I do say so myself Mike Battery was the best firing battery in the entire Marine Corps during our time.  We were the envy of our battalion, the equivalent of playing on a championship team. It was heady stuff for a twenty-something lieutenant in a unit of one-hundred Marines. And we found time to enjoy Japan—its sights, its culture, and especially its people. It was a terrific education.

As is tradition, Marines refer to captains as Skipper, and so for me Bob Adams was then, and remains so today, Skipper. The bond we developed enabled us to remain in touch over the many years since we were together in uniform. Skipper continued in the Marines until his eventual retirement, and I went on to a career in the business world. We raised kids, traveled the world in our respective careers, and managed to remain in touch.

Skipper and wife Leah visited my wife and I in Atlanta not long ago. When we started reminiscing it was almost like we were young and back in Japan again. The names of our troops didn’t come quite as easily as they once did, but it was amazing how much intricate detail we could recollect after forty years. We even joked as we did years ago about how Japanese often struggle to pronounce L-words like “village,” which hence becomes “virrage.”  And to be fair, my command of the Japanese language has improved nil since we were there.

I also found out that Skipper had become a woodworker of some distinction, with a gorgeous grandfather clock to his credit. To my surprise, a box arrived on my doorstep this week. Inside was a bird house, expertly crafted and made of cedar, and with my name (sorta) inscribed across the front.

I can only hope that the birds who take up residence will have as much fun living in it as I did in receiving it.

Semper Fi, Skipper. Stop by if you ever get to Atranta again.


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