2003 News Article

The Stirlings We Must Remember.

The following was sent to Clan Stirling Online by one of our supporters in Texas.  We've been asked a number of times what the clan's political view on the worlds current events are.

Simply and honestly, this is not the place to discuss that.  Besides our family is represented by members in over 70 countries around the world.  What is important to remember is there are many Stirlings serving in the armed forces for quite a number of nations involved.  This message, sent by a friend of Clan Stirling Online, gives a sincere and honest look at the Stirling Family members we should honor and support, regardless of how we feel about the world situation at this time.  If you have family members serving or working in harms way, we all hope and pray for their safe return to their loved ones.

Sincerely,
Michael L. Jex
Clan Stirling Online.

"I took the family to our favorite after-church restaurant this morning. The food is great, the service is excellent, and the prices are quite reasonable, so as to be expected, we had a short wait for a table. While enjoying the warm California sunshine out on the sidewalk, my wife and I saw an elderly lady wearing a Longhorn sweatshirt enter and add her name to the waiting list. As she came back outside, she was met by her husband, a 70-something man with a slow but steady gait. Perched atop his gray hair was a black ball cap with a B-17 embroidered on it. Never ones to miss an opportunity to talk with fellow Longhorns, my wife and I steered our two kids in their direction, and we introduced ourselves.

The conversation began as one might expect: My wife inquired about the sweatshirt, and we were told their son had earned his Ph D in physics at UT 2 years earlier. I described my years on the Forty Acres and explained that I was a captain in the Air Force. Immediately, the gentleman thrust his hand forward and said, “Congratulations. I was a Lieutenant. I would’ve made captain if the war had lasted longer, but then I’d also probably be dead.”

WWII B17 Crew abd AircraftAs my wife and daughter pursued a less foreboding conversational path with the gentleman’s wife, my son and I listened with rapt attention as he explained that he’d been a B-17 navigator in World War II. He’d spent 21 weeks in training, then flew to England and began combat missions. His voice held that level, “matter-of-fact” tone of someone who had told the same story many times as he described taking hits and seeing the aircraft next to his explode (“just like that, 10 of my friends were dead”), but his eyes told a different tale, blurring out of focus as he replayed that haunting sequence in his mind once again.

I turned to my son and explained to him that, as a communications officer who had originally enlisted after Desert Storm, I was unlikely to ever face what this man had. I also reminded him that there were no cruise missiles or Global Positioning Satellites during World War II. This gentleman’s job had been to visit death upon a determined enemy by flying hundreds of miles over heavily defended territory, relying on a map and a handful of instruments to prevent him from losing his way, while cramped into a cold, noisy, smelly metal crate for a period of time longer than a school day at his high school.

I then commented how sad it was that by the time my children reached my age, there would be no World War II veterans still alive. He nodded slowly, and said simply, “About a thousand a day.” I knew instantly what he meant. He told me about the reunions he attends -- the last one in St. Louis, the next one in Salt Lake City -- where the five remaining survivors of his original 10-man crew get together. His voice had softened now, and his eyes grew misty, as though he were conducting a mental roll call of those still remaining -- and those who’d already flown away on their final mission. There, too, was the knowledge that one day his turn would come, when he’d have to don one last time that musty, worn leather flight jacket and silk scarf, yellowed with age, but still proudly bearing the “Hap” Arnold Army Air Corp wings embroidered at each end. But just as quickly as they had softened, his eyes grew sharp and began to sparkle, and with a defiant smile, he stated: “But they’re not gonna get me!”

At this, the hostess called my name, and as my wife and kids said their goodbyes and headed inside, I took the gentleman’s hand one last time and told him, “Words cannot express what my generation owes yours.” Surprised, he said, “I don’t hear that much these days.” To which I replied, “You should, Sir.”

There was no question at all about picking up their bill. They were seated shortly after we were, and our waitress, who just happened to be waiting on them as well, eagerly joined the conspiracy, smiling discreetly in our direction each time she stopped to check on them; the generous tip we left her was well earned indeed. Of course we left before our treachery was discovered, but my wife and I both knew we had an unassailable defense had we been found out: I learned a small amount of German as a young ‘un because my mother is from Bavaria; this gentleman, and those like him, kept me from having to learn it -- as my native tongue! An order of bacon, eggs, and pancakes, a chicken Caesar salad, a cup of coffee, and a glass of ice tea was but a pittance by comparison.

This tale is true, and like most tales, has a moral. We live in uncertain times. We don’t know what will happen in Iraq, or in North Korea, or in Afghanistan. But regardless about how you may personally feel about U.S. foreign policy, or President Bush, or the military in general, never forget that wars are fought and won by individuals -- individuals who have infinitely more at stake than a few percentage points in a Gallup political poll. If you choose to protest a particular military action, please have the decency to thank those who protect your freedom to do so. And if you meet a war veteran, tell them “thank you” before they, too, answer their final roll call."