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Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler » Remembering A Vet
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I’m working today (after all, aren’t all vets supposed to?), but on the way home, I’ll stop by a cemetery and spend a few moments looking at the plain marker in the ground and planting a small flag. It isn’t particularly different than any other marker, it includes a name, Wallace Coleman, birth date and date of passing to his Eternal Reward. Also inscribed on that small piece of granite is World War 2.

I came to know Wally, as I finished my State Police Auxiliary Trooper training and was assigned as a probationary officer. Wally was my platoon leader during this initial 6-months evaluation period, before receiving my permanent appointment.

At the time each platoon, in addition to their assigned evening shift, was also assigned to a Sunday day shift during the “beach” season, to assist with the extensive traffic along the I-95 corridor. Wally being of one of those nearly indeterminate ages, was having some vision problems, and barely able to complete the firearms re-qualifications required of all sworn troopers. As such, Wally chose not to drive during his day and evenings shifts and I found myself being his driver/partner during those Sunday day-shift patrols.

Wally was a stern, yet gentle leader, that commanded respect in a quiet manner. His sheer size, with no neck, 5-lb ham–sized fists and shiny dark teak-colored skin also gave him a tough look in spite of the close-cropped gray haircut. His uniform was alway immaculate and it was immediately understood that anyone not appearing as sharp as he did, would be written up and the item corrected before leaving the troop.

As we got to know each other better, he learned that I had been in the Navy Submarine Service and he opened up a little. I learned that he had grown up in the deep south and saw the Navy as an opportunity to better himself, learn a useful trade and serve his country in spite of it’s blemishes of the ongoing racism, still prevalent in society. The memory is a bit faded but I recall, Wally joined sometime in 1940 and decided that the Submarine Service was the way to go. Our military at the time, continued to be segregated in that blacks were severely limited to the ratings they could serve in and Wally was assigned to Steward (Cook/Waiter) school in a class of 50 others.

He graduated and was assigned to the fleet and completed his submariner’s qualifications in record time, and was advanced in rank accordingly. During this pre-war period, the Navy also found another talent Wally had, boxing. The Navy’s policy encouraged physical fitness and boxing was highly enjoyed by all, with unofficial wagering on the outcome of various tournaments that were held in-port. Wally quickly advanced to and became the All-Pacific Champion and also prevailed over the Australian All-Navy Champion as his boat was home-ported in San Diego but forward deployed to Darwin Naval Base.

Wally loved the land down under, as his color had no impact on what and where he was permitted. Also he met and fell in love with a girl that would later become his wife while there. December 7, 1941 broke up the idyllic life of a sailor in the south Pacific theater and he found himself on war patrol, often engaged in special missions, moving about and retrieving the courageous Aussie Coast Watchers. Moving into littoral waters on these missions put the boats at risk without sufficient depth to submerge and avoid the enemy. During the war years, Wally was a crewman on three subs, the first two being sunk by enemy action and he was lucky enough to survive along with a few shipmates each time and received decorations for each. (I suspect one was the Navy Cross, indirectly learned by a few old mates at the funeral, but typical of his personality, he refused to admit it). His comment was “I just did what I had to, helping my shipmates.”

With the end of the war, Wally now advanced to the rank of Chief Petty Officer decided to continue his Naval Service and was assigned to Submarine Base New London. As an aside, he was one of only 4 of his original Steward training classmates that survived. He completed numerous tours of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. He became extremely fond of the UK, and Scotland in particular, as visiting there he received a King’s Welcome among his fellow Freemasons.

Wally and his wife quietly lived and raised two children, became a deacon in a local church, joined the State Police and following his Navy retirement took a part-time job “to keep busy” in his words, at the newly built casino nearby. He was first and foremost a man of quiet dignity, that respected each man as he deserved. In spite of his increasing years he never lost the immense strength of that young man the boxer. I personally witnessed him stiff-arming a 200 lb miscreant onto the hood of a cruiser, sliding him hard enough to knock the goblin out against the windshield.

Wally developed further medical complications and reluctantly he was de-certified for patrol duties and spent the rest of his service to the state in administrative capacities.

In 1992, the L_rd called Wallace Coleman home. Another veteran of the ‘Greatest Generation’ was called home to his Creator and shipmates. He was afforded a full-military funeral from the State Police with Honor Guard, Pipers and a Firing Squad along with the Masonic Funeral rituals. I was honored to be a pall-bearer, taking my old friend to his final rest. The crack of the rifles brought a finality to our mortal friendship.

So to my friends here, today when you think of the millions of Vets that have gone before, put in a word for Wallace A. Coleman, Chief Steward, USN. I’m sure he’s rather busy, keeping St. Peter’s sailors in good chow and hot coffee.

Fair Winds and Following Seas my friend, save me a good rack will ya?

8 Responses to “Remembering A Vet”
  1. Unregistered Comment by mindy1

    Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method emotions::filter_text() should not be called statically in /home/misha/public_html/2007/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 59

    Thanks for telling us about him-he seemd to be a good person. To DJ-where are the emoticons? I liked them, and they were most helpful.

  2. LC & IB GuyS Comment by LC & IB GuyS

    Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method emotions::filter_text() should not be called statically in /home/misha/public_html/2007/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 59

    He sounds like a Sailor it would have been an honor to serve with. Fair Winds and Following Seas indeed, to CPO Wallace Coleman, and to all of that generation who grew up tempered by the Great Depression, metal tested with WWII, and their patients tested by all us baby boomers they produced not long after that. There will never be another group quite like that, and we are all the poorer for their passing.

  3. shermpotter Comment by shermpotter

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    Indeed, carry on sailor! Sounds like quite the exemplary fellow. LC & IB, you are right onabout us boomers… Rest in Peace CPO COleman.

  4. LC 0311 crunchie I.M.H. Comment by LC 0311 crunchie I.M.H.

    Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method emotions::filter_text() should not be called statically in /home/misha/public_html/2007/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 59

    Thank you for sharing this with us JB. I feel I’m a better person for knowing about him and I am sure you are grateful to have known him.

  5. LC Mrs. M-ITT™ Comment by LC Mrs. M-ITT™

    Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method emotions::filter_text() should not be called statically in /home/misha/public_html/2007/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 59

    We’re losing far too many of these men daily. We have to make the effort to thank them and get to know their history before they are gone. It’s the only way their deeds will live on. Thanks for the story Bro.

    RIP CPO Coleman. And we Thank You.

  6. LC Hardclimber54 Comment by LC Hardclimber54

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    Great tribute Jackboot!

    I wish all the Vets could have a friend like you to call their own. It breaks my heart to hear some Vet passed away, alone and forgotten, in a country which has expected so much from them, yet let them pass on all alone. Your friend has not died as long as you keep him in your memories…

  7. psychochick Comment by psychochick

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    Thanks Jackboot–really inspiring.

    hope I’m wrong, and there is a heaven for vets like that

  8. LC Hardclimber54 Comment by LC Hardclimber54

    Strict Standards: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method emotions::filter_text() should not be called statically in /home/misha/public_html/2007/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 59

    psychochick

    hope I’m wrong, and there is a heaven for vets like that

    There is. It’s a place inside your heart filled with your love…