Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers' Day

Background:

Friday evening, April 27, 2001, I had the good fortune to bring 215 attorneys and spouses/significant others onto the base at Marine Air Station Miramar near San Diego, California.  We arrived in 5 luxury busses, each of which was boarded at the gate by a sharp "Tom Cruise" type Marine Captain of all of 27-33 years old who took command of each bus and narrated as we rolled onto the base and then past a guard and onto the air field.  215 professionals and family then "fell out," mouths open, eyes-wide open, as we looked into what appeared to be a Sears Auto Repair for F-14s and F-18s.  We could hardly believe our eyes, or our good fortune.

For the next hour or so, we were treated to a guided tour of the jet aircraft in the hangar.  We crawled over, under and around a half dozen single seaters, each larger than the busses that brought us there, as the Marine Captains explained everything they could, short of divulging anything confidential.  Each of us touched these jets, and were, in turn, touched by them and by the Marines who daily operate, fly, maintain and train in them.

To see the cockpit from atop a set of wheeled metal stairs and realize that there's just no space there to fit anything more than a relatively modest-sized pilot really drove home the seriousness of their business.

We were told that the day prior to our visit the pilots had dropped bombs in Utah.  One of our members remarked that he did know that we had declared war on Utah.  Now that was funny.

After more than an hour, we had to get going.  Our busses then ferried us to the Officers' Club (in the Tom Cruise movie, "Top Gun" the "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" scene was filmed there) where we enjoyed a first class dinner with entertainment by a California beach band playing Beach Boys and other 60s and 70s music.

As the coordinator of the event, I had an opportunity to address the group prior to dinner, welcome them to Miramar and also to tell them something of my connection with Miramar as well as to pay tribute to my parents who had a very big connection with Miramar.  My remarks, reprinted below, were very well received.  They are reprinted here for your reading and, I hope, your enjoyment.

Ellis Mirsky
Son of Joe and Lucille Mirsky

Welcome to Miramar:

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. And good evening Jarheads (we invited the Marine officers to join us for dinner . . . and they did!  We fed about a dozen Jarheads that evening.)

"We are delighted to be here at Marine Air Station Miramar, also known as the place where Tom Cruise showed Kelly McGillis some of his best maneuvers.

"We are indeed fortunate to be here and honored to be in the presence of our Marine Corps hosts. The United States Marine Corps is universally acknowledged to be the finest military organization in the world. Other services seek to emulate the Marines. Other countries try to build their own corps. But there is only one Marine Corps. And it’s ours.

"On behalf of The Network of Trial Law Firms and all of our corporate guests, spouses and significant others, I want to thank the Marines here at our dinner whose selfless dedication to our country is part of the bedrock on which our liberty depends. As lawyers we know all too well that without law, there can be no order. However, without order, there can be no law. The Marines give us order, on a global scale.

"I want to acknowledge some of the folks in our own group with ties to the Marine Corps. 
  • Fredrick Block, father of my partner, Richard Block, served in the Marine Corps.
  • Captain Alex Chotkowski, of the Rome, McGuigan law firm (Hartford, CT)
  • Captain Richard Fox, husband of Kathy Fox of the Wildman, Harrold law firm (Chicago, IL)
  • Corporal Timothy Patrick Rooney, active, with service in Kosovo, Bosnia and his father Timothy Patrick Rooney, retired, having served in Viet Nam, nephew and brother-in-law of George Murphy of the Hecker Brown Sherry and Johnson law firm in Philadelphia, PA)
  • Gary Robinson, Navy flight-surgreon based in San Diego in the early 60's, father of Brett Robinson of Pro Bass.
"I am sure that there are more, but that’s what we were able to come up with just from the folks attending our program.

"Now, I want to tell you a little bit about Miramar from a very personal perspective. And I want to tell you about two very special Marines -- my parents.  Now I don’t call them Marines just because they are strict, demanding, principled, and honorable people, which they are. I call them Marines because they were, or, as they like to say, are: Marine Sergeant Lucille Mirsky and Marine Staff Sergeant Jacob ("Joe") Mirsky – Mom and Dad.

"Against the wishes of the then commandant, the first Women Marines during WWII began arriving February 13, 1943.  At that time, women were trained at Hunter College in the Bronx.  Mom enlisted in June, 1943, and was called up in August, 1943.  By that time the training center had been moved to Camp LeJeune, NC.

"Mom is proud to say that Women Marines have always been called Marines, as opposed to the other services.  Although her duties during WWII were largely clerical and office work at Headquarters at the Naval Annex in Arlington, Virginia, she was/is a Marine.

"Mom was stationed at Henderson Hall, a compound specifically for Women Marines, in Arlington, Virginia.  She says that when they fell out for calesthenics at 0500 each morning, Arlington Cemetery was just over the wall.

"Sunday, December 7, 1941, Dad went down to a recruiting station in Manhattan to enlist.  It was 7:00 p.m.  He couldn’t get near the building because of the lines of men waiting to enlist.  Cops were all over the street trying to control the crowds.  People were told to go home.  They just couldn't accommodate the number of volunteers who turned out.  Dad returned several times until he was permitted to enlist in May, 1942.  He waited until August 17, 1942 when they called him.  That day he traveled 26 hours in box cars with wooden seats to Yemassee.  Then 30 miles by cattle truck to boot camp at Parris Island, SC.  From there on in, he says, it was double time all the time.  The Marine Corps had no dungarees or boots to give them and for a week they trained in their civilian clothes.  A week later they were issued dungarees and boots.  8 weeks in PI, and they were shipped to Camp LeJeune, NC for 4 weeks on the rifle range.  Dad qualified as a Marksman (that means, he said, he could hit the target).  He was then transferred to Quantico, Virginia where he was able to practice his shooting.  He qualified as an expert and earned $5 per month extra for a year.

"In February, 1945 every Sergeant and better at Quantico (there were 117 of them) who had not been overseas, was put on a three-part troop train (Army, Navy, Marines).  The Army slept 2 per bunk, and the Navy stacked their men 4 high.  Each had their own galleys. The Marines, though, had individual bunks with a Pullman Porter to keep the train car neat.  The train stopped 3 times each day at “Fred Harveys” to eat.  But only the Marines left the train for meals.  And they did so at every stop. The Army and the Navy ate from their galleys.

"In California, the train stopped at Linda Vista, a train station, and the Marines were transferred by truck to Miramar.  Upon arrival they were put in barracks near the airfield.  No mattresses, they slept on wire webbing.  One day everyone had to fall out.  My Dad and another Marine were told to get their sea bags and report to a jeep.  He thought for sure, this is it.  He was finally getting to go overseas -- the reason he enlisted.

"Instead, he was taken to an airplane hangar with a sign “Construction and Maintenance School.”  Dad attended that school and earned a 3.9 average, so they kept him on to teach at the school and work on the base as a carpenter.  One of the projects he worked on was a 10'x10' portable broadcasting booth that was sound-insulated.

"That was April or May, 1945.  Mom, having been discharged from the Marine Corps previously, followed by train about that time.

"Dad stayed in the Corps until May, 1946 until he was discharged, having earned his 36 points, pretty much just by being in the Corps and doing his job.  Prior to discharge, Dad took a 3-4 day course, “how to become a civilian.”  Dad thinks he did very well in that course.  Mom thinks that’s a matter of opinion.

"So, discharge papers and $200 “travel allowance” in hand, Dad left the gate, seabag over his shoulder, and took a bus into Linda Vista.  Mom had lined up a house to live in.  I arrived about a year and a half later in November, 1947.

"Mom (78) and Dad (79) are alive and well and retired in Boca Raton, FL.  Both are active members of the Marine Corps League; both are officers in the Tamarac Detachment of the Marine Corps League (http://www.tamaracmcl.com/).  Mom is an active member of the Women Marines Association. And both are proud to say, they are Marines.

"Thank you and enjoy dinner."

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