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                                                                              JOURNAL #203

                                                                            February 15, 2016

 

          During the late fifties, when the Cold War was at its height, I joined the Navy and got orders for flight training at Pensacola. Then they discovered that I had a color vision issue, not color blindness but a defect nonetheless. It barred me not only from landing on carriers, but even from sitting on carriers.

          They allowed me to go to OCS. Then I was sent to Kami Seya, a communication station in Japan, where I met Harvey S. (Scotty) Parrish. He was a WWII vet, a lieutenant commander, and that rarity, a boss for whom his people would have taken a bullet. He was also a talented outfielder. And, until I met him, I thought I was a good chess player.          

          He led by encouragement and example. He took care of his people, and was responsible for his decisions. I never saw him try to pass blame onto anyone else. He created a climate which encouraged his subordinates to excel, rather than to concentrate on not getting into trouble. He was willing to do the right thing, regardless of consequences. And he operated under the assumption that a commander is only as good as his subordinates.

          Twenty years later, when I was doing leadership seminars for the Customs Service, I was still using the principles I'd learned from him. We never lived close to each other after our time in Japan, but we stayed in touch. I'd gone down to the Clearwater area, where he lived as a retired captain, twice in the last few months to see him. We'll be going that way in two weeks to get together with our older son Scott, and watch some Phillies games. We'd have stopped by Clearwater again except that, ten days ago, we lost him.

          Our son Scotty is an avid Phillies fan though he's never lived in Philadelphia. His name is not a coincidence.

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          Linda Thomas was part of that Customs leadership team fifteen years ago. Saturday evening, Feb. 13, she put together a reunion for us at Maggiano's Italian Restaurant in Jacksonville. George Tindle attended with his wife Ashley. George was our director. Also present was Jack Kraus and his wife Sandra. I was there with Maureen. And of course Linda's husband, Phil. It was a priceless evening . Thanks to all. Photo available:    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153506606633299&set=pcb.10153506611518299&type=3&theater

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          Steve Berry's Cotton Malone has become one of my favorite fictional characters. He is a retired intelligence operative who runs a bookstore in Denmark while bailing his former associates out of trouble. And he finds himself drawn into solving historical mysteries. Steve's books rank as top thrillers. They include The Patriot Threat, The King's Deception, and The Columbus Affair.

          Cotton's adventures consistently lock me in from the start. E.g., The Lincoln Myth opens with a scene in which former President Buchanan arrives in Lincoln's office at the height of the Civil War. He carries a document given originally to George Washington, who passed it on to John Adams and began a chain from president to president. Apparently, whatever it contains is not good news. Lincoln looks at it without letting the reader see the contents. "This cannot be," he says. And we go to chapter one, Cotton and the present day.

          I tried to imagine what the document could possibly have said that would have rattled Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War. With no luck.

          I think Alex Benedict and Cotton would have gotten on beautifully.