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Written by Dean Flewwellin   
Tuesday, 01 June 2010 05:56

In 2002, I met "Big John" at our daily luncheons with the interesting Senior Citizen's group at the Grand Isle, Louisiana Community Center.   He stood well over six feet tall, and looked like he could whip the whole bunch of us, who mainly resembled a Tea Party get-together.   But time had taken its toll on his health, as now he was destined to wear slippers every where he went.
On this Memorial Day, I am royally miffed and ashamed that I can't remember his last name.   I have it in my family library, but it is buried deep in those 14 large plastic boxes of 285 albums at my son's house in Florida.   I have worked the Internet for hours, and being a holiday, I haven't been able to contact the people who might still have his name listed on their computer.
But "Big John" and I quickly discovered we had both attended Fletcher High School in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.   He had played on our football team in the 1940's but had moved and graduated from another high school in a different state.   In 1954, I had graduated from Fletcher.
We both loved swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, both loved skin and scuba diving, and both had studied the many adventures beneath the surface of the sea. However, "Big John" became a professional after joining the U. S. Navy.
"Big John" became a "Frogman," and one of the early members of our Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT).   Years later, he eventually evolved into a "Navy Seal."   Part of his strong motivation came from his father, who served as an admiral during WWII.
He regaled us with his former exploits, which were performed all over the world, many of which were somewhat shocking and gory.   And since big guys tend not to speak quietly, I would suddenly sense that the whole lunch group were listening.   Especially when you could hear older ladies gasp!
You could see, and hear, the seriousness and pride in his eyes as he spoke.   One time he banged his fist on the table, to emphasize his deep feelings about a wartime exploit, and we all understood.
One day, he wondered about some of his former UDT buddies.   He gave me his information, and since he didn't use a computer, I offered to see what I could find.   I was happy to locate enough information and photos to put into an album, which I presented to him at lunch.   He was surprised, and commented further on the photos.  Hell.....as much as he had already done for his country, I was happy to reciprocate - even if in a small way.
But that was the last time I ever saw "Big John," as he never showed up for lunch again.   I knew he was scheduled (again) for the Veteran's Hospital in New Orleans, but nobody was able to track him down.   And those in the know, were not allowed to give out any information.
Thus, on this Memorial Day 2010, I give a special thanks to "Big John," and the U. S. Navy Seals.
As an addendum, I have a son who taught "Underwater Combat" at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida. And he was the funny guy in my family!?   C'est la vie!

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 June 2010 06:06