Heroes Rarely Brag, But Uncles Often Do

I have four nephews on active duty. I am extremely proud of all of their contributions in a generation that is better known for the self-centered pursuit of individual gratification. Of all four, Ian was the one who has been the greatest surprise and has provided some of the greatest moments. Petty Officer Anderson was a sports star in high school but not overly ambitions in non-sports endeavors. Like a lot of kids, he probably had his fair share of rebellion and could challenge  you even without trying sometimes. He was alway big for his age and never ceased to amaze me when he came to visit.

I have four distinct memories of Ian from his youth. The first is when he visited us in Indiana where we were working after retirement. I had a favorite chair that was called “The Commander” by the manufacturer. It was a one and a half man chair with a slick reclining lever on the side. At the end of a long day, I loved coming home and slipping quietly into the embracing arms of the Commander and gently pulling the lever to bring my feet to a level position that equaled my heart.. A cold (or hot) toddy completed the relaxation cycle. Did I mention that I loved that chair?

On the second day of one of Ian’s visits, he showed me an amazing display of his athletic prowess. From about six feet away, he launched his lanky frame high in the air, twisted his body for a backwards landing, and upon landing flipped the chair up in one motion of his hand to a fully extended position. I should have probably applauded but I was too appalled as I heard the Commander creak and groan under the weight. After a short but direct conversation on proper use of a monumental seating instrument, he got up and went to find something else to do. As I sat on the chair, I noticed a distinct starboard list. Apparently Ian had been practicing for the move all afternoon because the Commander was never the same afterwards. When we moved, I had a memorial service for it as the men came to take it to its final resting place.

In that same trip, my better half decided that Ian would help out around the house and he was given some lessons on how to use my lawn tractor to cut our lawn. I showed him the brakes and the levers that would raise and lower the deck. I showed him the lever that controlled the speed with strict instructions. Never never never go above this line (speed) and always watch where you were going. After the incident with the Commander, I had great confidence that he would be the safest mower in the world. Later that afternoon I got a phone call from my beautiful bride saying those fateful words: “Now Bob, don’t be mad.” I wonder why people say that. You know its only going to prepare them for the thing that will eventually make you mad. Ian had called her at her office and told her that the tractor had somehow oversteered itself and somehow the speed lever was stuck on high when it happened. The resulting collision with the fence not only permanently altered the fence but made the front end of my tractor (did I mention it was new?) look like the beginning of one of those  Allstate commercials.

I did not kill him. I do not think I even yelled. My smouldering retired Chief Petty Officer looks probably did more harm than any words. I am eternally grateful I did not. A few days later, my favorite dog suffered a twisted stomach. We didn’t even know what that was until the next day when the vet pronounced him dead on the table. Ian laid with Duncan in the hallway all night long trying to comfort him. He never left his side and I believe was the one comforting thing that Duncan had in his last hours. This gangly teenager showed a compassion that to this day makes my eyes water.

The fourth memory came one morning when Ian was having difficulty getting up. We have never had children before and were probably not prepared for his inability to arouse himself at the required time. I understand that happens quite often with younger people. He on the other hand had never been awakened by the gentle sounds of a bugle being played next to his head. The results were quite amazing. He jumped to his feet and barely caught himself before he almost unleashed a string of words that would have made a seasoned sailor blush. He still remembers that day but frankly we never had trouble getting him up after that morning.

After 9 11, Ian, like many young people felt the urge to do something. His older brother had already joined the Navy and I think he was really convinced that he wanted to go on something that didn’t sink on purpose or even spend long periods underway. So he surprised us all and joined the Coast Guard. I was unable to go to his boot camp graduation but I can tell you I was very sad about that inability on my part.

He has continued to amaze us with his service and progress. He quietly has done things I can only imagine. But recently he was called upon to do some things that made me proud that I contributed a chair and a tractor in the development of his skills and abilities.

This was from a Post I had up on Facebook from a few days ago. Sometimes its easy to forget that giants walk among us. As the recent hurricane came raging up the east coast, my nephew Ian was ordered to stay in his command center somewhere in Virginia while everyone else was evacuated. Even as his family was sent inland, he stayed the course and was ready and able to answer the calls to direct resources for critical rescues. His role is to direct rescue efforts during life’s storms and casualties. Recently, his innovation, tenacity and ability to improvise resulted in something amazing.

This was the post:

“I am not sure how Facebook really works. I never know who sees what I post. But I want to say this for the world to see. I know a real life saver. Not just someone who puts on a uniform, but someone who has the strength, courage and ability to use his gifts to save a life. That man is Ian Anderson, a Petty Officer in the United States Coast Guard. His actions saved a man’s life. It doesn’t get much better than that. I would be proud to serve with him anytime, any where and any place.  You will never know how proud I am of you nephew. Semper Paratus. We are lucky to have men like you willing to serve.”

CWO2 USN (Retired) Mac

One Very Proud Uncle

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