Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Making Of A Rebel

Erik Erickson from South Dakota and Mike Cannon from Los Angeles California - Tuslog Detachment 93 (The Hog) Erhac Turkey

  I can't remember exactly when or how I became interested in the Civil War. Maybe it was the pictures of the Civil War in our World Book Encyclopedias. Or the day that my mother picked me up from school and just the two of us went to see a movie called the Horse Soldiers with John Wayne and William Holden. Two of my all time favorite movie stars. The Horse Soldiers was Hollywood's version of an actual Union cavalry raid during the Vicksburg campaign. Although Hollywood mostly gets it wrong when it comes to history, a movie can inspire a child's interest in the subject. Hopefully they will be inspired to seek after the truth. In Mrs. Hearn's sixth grade class, at Charlotte Park elementary, we were assigned a class project. We were allowed do it on any subject that interested us. After completion pictures would be taken and sent to a 6th grade class in South America. Mother bought me a sheet of plywood and I set it on two saw horses in the back of our class room. I created a realistic Civil War battlefield using dirt and my Blue and Gray Civil War play set. 

  When Debbie and I were dating we went to the Belle Meade theater to see Gone With The Wind. The movie had been re-released many times since it's original premiere in 1939 but this was my first time to see it. I was in awe and have seen the movie at least a thousand times since. A movie that the New York Times has suggested should be banned. I will never forget the scene at the Atlanta railroad yard when Scarlett Ohara is walking through a sea of wounded Confederate soldiers. The scene slowly expands to reveal a tattered Confederate flag waving in the breeze while an inspiring rendition of Dixie is playing in the background. That scene usually brings tears to my eyes and makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I decided then and there that I wanted a Confederate flag. When Debbie and I were married on June 21st 1968 we spent a weekend in Atlanta and Chattanooga. While at Six Flags Over Georgia I found a 3x6 Confederate battle flag in a souvenir shop. 

  On August 5th 1968 I was inducted into the Air Force. After basic training I received orders for Kingsley Field Oregon in Klamath Falls. Like an idiot I sold my car so I would have enough money to take Debbie to Oregon with me. She was pregnant and starting to show. If I had been smart I would have driven my car to Oregon and lived in the barracks until I could have saved enough money to send for her later. I didn't want to be away from her that long however. We boarded a Greyhound bus and endured a tortuous three day trip to Oregon. When we arrived our ankles were swollen to twice their size. We were as broke as a young married couple could be. After checking into a cheap motel Debbie immediately started to cry from homesickness. She would cry a lot over the next six months. We eventually found a place at Shasta View Apartments. It was akin to living in the projects. The two of us walked everywhere we went. I was an Air Force Security Policeman and the base was about ten miles away. At first I would walk to work hoping that some kind soul would offer me a ride. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't. After a month or two I was able to find an old 1955 Pontiac. It would break down about as much as it would run. In April Debbie gave birth to my son Robbie. Luckily my car was running and I was able to get her to the hospital that morning.

  There was a black guy in my unit named Ceronie Robinson. He was from Atlanta Georgia. Ceronie, along with his wife Paulette and little girl lived at a modest but nice string of apartments. They were owned by a kindly rancher in Klamath Falls. Ceronie talked me into moving there, which was a good decision for us. We were much happier and formed friendships with not only Ceronie and his wife but several other military couples. This is where we would live until I left for Turkey in April 1970. For much of this period I was pretty much without a car. My Pontiac was always broken down. Ceronie and I were on the same Security Flight and he was kind enough to give me a ride to work. His car was reliable but it was old. Everything was working but the horn.

The Robinson Family

One day on our way home from work we were stopped by two Oregon State Troopers. Ceronie was driving the speed limit and he wasn't driving erratically. A Trooper asked to see his license and Ceronie wanted to know why he was being pulled over. The officer never answered him but asked to see if everything worked. The turn signals, emergency flashers, headlights, back-up lights and the horn. It was as if he was trying to find something wrong. The Trooper gave him a ticket for the horn. They may have been following normal procedure but I have always felt that Ceronie was pulled over because he was black. Usually when a black person screams racism I am skeptical but this is something I witnessed for myself. Another day we were on a 72 hour break. Ceronie was looking for a used car and he asked me to go along. He noticed a car sitting in a front yard with a For Sale sign on it. As he walked up to the car a man ran out of the house and angrily grabbed the sign. " The car's not for sale" he said and walked back into the house. These experiences in the military opened my eyes to the fact that racism was not confined to one region of the country. There are rednecks everywhere.

  I arrived in Istanbul Turkey after midnight on June 1st 1970. The flight from New York had been a long and harrowing experience. The 747 Jumbo jet had just come on line earlier that month. I never expected to fly on one until I saw that big ole plane sitting on the ramp. About an hour out of JFK I was awakened out of a deep sleep by an explosion in the number four engine. The pilot turned the big plane around and after dumping fuel to reduce the chances of fire in the event of a crash, we made an uneventful emergency landing in New York. After repairing the plane and a long layover we had a routine nine hour flight to Heathrow airport in London. Because my Pan Am connection was interrupted I flew a Turkish DC9 nonstop to Istanbul. Disembarking from the plane reminded me of a scene from a movie. The terminal was old and dingy but even at that hour it was a hub of activity and jammed packed. There was a unique smell that I have never smelled before or since. As I walked toward customs a gang of shabbily dressed men and boys crowded around me speaking Turkish. I had no idea what they were saying. One boy grabbed my duffel bag, moved it a few feet, and set it down. He then held his hand out. In English he said fifty cents. Not knowing what else to do I handed him two quarters.

  In this strange environment I was pretty nervous and feeling lost. It was about this time that I spotted two black Airmen about my age standing nearby. I made a beeline over to them and they were as happy to see me as I was to see them. They told me that they were going to Incirlik AFB, which was where I was headed. At that we decided to travel together. All through the morning hours we tried to get a flight to Ankara but kept getting bumped. After daylight we walked, rode taxi's, or buses all over Istanbul trying to find the American consulate. Around dusk we were able to board a Turkish F-27 prop job to Ankara. When we arrived there it was the same problem all over again. We couldn't get a seat to Adana where Incirlik AFB was located. Late that night we met a white MSgt and a white Captain in the terminal. Both were from Ohio. They were also going to Incirlik. For the sake of safety we decided to hang together. There was a hotel across the street from the American Embassy which had broken windows from an anti-American demonstration earlier that day. After checking in we decided to walk to a nearby bar. Everybody but me had a beer. I ordered a coke. In Turkey they would bring you a coke in a bottle that was already opened.

  We walked back to the hotel and as I placed my foot on the stairs leading to our rooms my head started spinning. I had to lean against the wall. A wave of panic swept over me as I thought, did someone drug my Coke? We were only able to rent two rooms and both rooms had one double bed. The two Airmen walked into one room and I turned to follow. The MSgt grabbed me by the arm and both men tried to talk me into staying with them. They asked me why I would want to sleep with the black guys. I was pretty naive about things just then and I didn't realize what they were getting at. I told them that we had been together since arriving in Turkey and I felt that since I was closer to them in rank and age I should stay with them. The MSgt kept shifting his eyes in the direction of their room and about that time it hit me. They were wanting to segregate by race. That made me mad. I walked into our room, shut the door, and climbed into bed right between the two black guys. It hardly mattered because my head was still spinning and I felt like I was walking on mattresses. I felt this way for about three days. The next morning at breakfast the two white guys were giving me the cold shoulder. They told us that they had decided to go their own way. Again we spent all day looking for a flight out of Ankara. Late that afternoon we walked over to the military terminal and were able to catch a hop out on a C-130 that took us straight to Incirlik. After spending a few days there processing in I left for my base at Erhac in eastern Turkey. For about a month I was a Flight chief because the Security Police Squadron was short on SSgts. During this time I was assigned to a two man room with my assistant flight chief. My Confederate flag was at the bottom of my duffel bag and after unpacking I hung it on the wall over my bunk.

  There was a black guy from Memphis named Rogers. He walked into my room and spotted my flag. He said "You a rebel huh". I said "No, I'm just proud to be from the South". After visiting for a while he turned and walked out of the room. Two new SSgt's arrived in the detachment and I became an assistant to a black SSgt. He was a strange bird. As his assistant I should have had the best posts instead he was putting me on the worst posts. Then I noticed that he was disrespecting me when he made out the duty roster. He would list everyone by their rank but my name was just Segroves. I endured this treatment for a few weeks but resolved myself to do something about it. On a midnight shift we were being posted in the Nuclear Alert Area. When our truck arrived I waited for everyone else to leave the vehicle. Then there was just him and me. After stepping out of the passenger side I looked him straight in his face and said " I don't know what your problem is, but starting tomorrow I expect to be treated with the respect of my rank and my proper name and rank had better be on the duty roster. If not I will go to the NCOIC of security" I was armed with an M-16 and a pistol and he was also armed. The man came unglued and cussed me out. He used every word in the profanity vocabulary and had pure hatred in his eyes. As I walked through the main gate shack to my post he was still screaming at me. Quite frankly I was scared that he was going to shoot me in the back but I looked straight ahead. My gate shack was the size of a telephone booth and as I sat down he was standing over me and spewing out profanity. I never said another word after I left the truck. Abruptly he turned and stormed off. I called our dispatcher and had him call our NCOIC of Security to wake him up. When he later called me I told him how he was treating me. The next day TSgt Wright moved me to another Flight and I became the assistant to a black SSgt named John Miliken. He treated me very fairly and we became good friends. SSgt Miliken and SSgt Charles at Kingsley Field, who was also black, were the two best sergeants that I had in the Air Force. Charles was like a father to me.

  I couldn't understand why this sergeant had treated me so badly. One day I was talking to a friend and he said "Greg, think about it. You have a Rebel flag on your wall". I seriously had not considered this. For a few days I debated taking it down. I knew in my heart that I was anything but a racist. When I analyzed my past I knew that I was not a perfect person but I had never used a racist slur or mistreated anyone of color in my life. I was virtually raised around black people, had played with black children, and regardless of their station in life, if they were adults, I never addressed them except with the respect I would show any adult, white or black. So I stood my ground. The flag would stay. As the months went by in Turkey I saw a softening in attitude by the black sergeant that had mistreated me. I believe that he came to realize that I wasn't what he thought I was. He was judging a book by it's cover. By the time he left Turkey we were on speaking terms. This experience taught me a lifelong lesson. Be true to yourself. If you are right don't be afraid to stand your ground. That is one reason that I have a tremendous appetite for learning. Knowledge is power and no one can take that away from you. It gives you the inner security and strength to confidently take on ignorance. It hurts to be judged unfairly or to be mislabeled. This is why so many fair minded people back down to liberal bullying. Nobody wants to be called a racist. As conservatives we must be prepared to be called racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and every other name under the sun. Yet we must strive not to be those things. Political correctness is a means of cutting off debate.

  What we are seeing today in regard to the assault on the Confederate flag and other Confederate symbols is a type of cultural cleansing that we have seen in Communist and Muslim countries. The Communists have destroyed the symbols of capitalism while the Muslims have destroyed symbols of what they consider heretic religions. The radical left is not only trying to bring about a cultural cleansing they are turning our colleges and schools into reeducation centers. They are molding the minds of our young people. Yes Obama has fundamentally changed America. However a fundamental change has been taking place under our noses for many years. The only thing that stands in their way are the pesky conservatives who bitterly hold on to their guns, and their religion. The ones who are slowing them down. Marx would call that dialectics. Karl Marx believed that Capitalism would fall of it's own weight but it's fall must be helped along. That is the role that the radical left is performing in America today and they are very good at it. Marx believed that the fall of capitalism is inevitable. I believe that our generation is seeing Marx's vision coming to fruition.





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