A walk among silent warriors
My life has been blessed to have know several special men during my time on this Earth. To many they may not even be recognized as a warrior. They included relatives, friends, fellow workers and acquaintances. They never boasted of their service. They were quiet warriors; humble about their contribution.
Men like my Uncle Tom Connors who served during WWI in the U.S. Navy as a chief gunners mate and turret captain on a battleship. Great memories were made of those fishing trips he took me on in the bays near Egg Harbor, New Jersey.
Men like Uncle Richard Swartwood who saw combat in the Pacific Theatre with the Army during WWII. There are many special memories like the time he took to show me how to make his famous fried rice.
Men like my former Pastor George Dashille who as a Marine during WWII manning an anti-aircraft battery on the USS Battleship Missouri. The powerful lesson I learned from him was how the mercy and grace of a loving God could remold an old cigar smoking, whisky drinking, hard-nosed Marine into a humble servant of our Lord and Savior.
Men like Crawford Yarrison, my father-in-law, who served in the Army in the Aleutians during WWII. I learned how to be a better husband to his daughter because of the Christ-like example he set after Christ transformed his life.
Men like Clyde Waltz with whom I had the privilege of spending time at the VFW. Clyde was an infantryman in the Army during WWII. He reluctantly shared how he almost lost his legs to frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge and how he begged the doctors to not amputate his feet. This example he set taught me the importance of not quitting no matter how bleak the situation appeared.
Men like Ernie Montgomery my sergeant on the Williamsport Bureau of Police who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and whose tank was destroyed earning him a Purple Heart. I learned to admire my old sarge, and nearby neighbor, for how quietly he returned from war, never mentioning what her endured, and how he raised his children and ensured the safety of the men he supervised on his watch.
Men like the late South Williamsport Police Chief Charles Smith who served in the Navy during the Korean War. Charlie was our backyard neighbor for the past 29 years. It wasn’t until many months ago while sitting at his kitchen table that he told me he was in the Korean War. I learned how he used his gentle nature and thoughtfulness during my time serving as South Williamsport’s Police Chief.
Men like Fred and John Agnoni whom I got to know during my time serving South Williamsport. They both served in Korea during that war. Their work ethic spoke volumes as I watched over the years.
Men like Bob, the Bird, Saam with whom I spent many midnight shifts patrolling as members of the Williamsport Bureau of Police. Bob survived combat in Vietnam as an infantryman with the Army. He was the great example of the quiet and gentle warrior.
Retired Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Paul Baclawski with whom I spent time at Camp Cadet. He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Vietnam War. Paul was another one of those quiet and gentle warriors.
Men like my nephew and brother officer Mike Orwig. We spent time together on the Williamsport Bureau of Police. Mike first served in the Marine Corps and then joined the Pennsylvania National Guard after 9/11. He then made great personal sacrifices with three deployments during Operation Enduring Freedom earning him a Bronze Star. I developed great admiration for what a tremendous sacrifice he made for all of us.
Finally men like our grandson Seth Crawford who is still serving with the Air Force. He has quietly stood in the gap during his three deployments, all while raising his family, including two of our four great-grandchildren, and lovingly caring for his wife. I deeply admire how he has never complained about being called away from his family. He understands what sacrifice is required to serve.
These are just a few of the many quiet, silent, humble warriors who have crossed my path. They have left an impression on what true sacrifice means. A reminder of how blessed I have been to have known them, learned from them, been humbled by their courage, recognized the heavy burden of physical and mental scars they must carry the rest of their lives.
Finally I must always remember to live a more grateful life. May all have the discernment to recognize these heroes and warriors whenever they cross our path. What a privilege it has been to have known these quiet warriors.
Gary Mayers, who retired as a city police sergeant and as South Williamsport police chief, is a Navy veteran who was assigned to a field hospital unit during the Gulf War.