I call this chapter Prime Time because I loved the 1980's. At least for the most part. The early 1980's were rough but I was in the best physical shape of my life. My economic picture was gradually improving. It was fun being in the Air Guard, because those guys made me laugh all the time. It was an honor to serve with them. I loved the music and I was crazy about my family. Finally we had a great president in the White House and I never felt prouder of my country. During the 1970's the Air Force decided that if America ever went to war again it's security forces would need to be able to defend it's airbases as it did under Operation Safeside in Vietnam. In the Spring of 1984 my Guard unit was deployed to Little Rock A.F.B. Arkansas for two weeks of Air Base Ground Defense Training. I was in very good physical shape because I averaged running about seven miles a day. However this two weeks in Arkansas would be the most physically challenging two weeks of my life since basic training. I was older but more physically prepared for this than I had been for basic training. The emphasis of the first week would be on land navigation, patrolling, fire team tactics, setting up ambushes, smoke and hand grenade training. We would also have a daily regimen of calisthenics, and a mile and a half run. One day would be dedicated to running an obstacle course that had been designed by Army Rangers. In Vietnam Air Force bases were for the most part protected by the Army and Marines. Or at least the outer perimeter. The Security Police protected the internal security of the base. If anything penetrated the Army and Marines outer perimeter the Security Police would protect the actual perimeter of the base. Which would happen on occasion, such as the 1968 Tet Offensive when many Air Force bases were nearly overrun. Then there were the occasional sapper attacks. Otherwise the greatest threat to an airbase were rocket and mortar attacks. The security of an airbase was of great concern to the Army and Marines because their very lives could depend on the air support provided by them. Army and Marine troops protected the outer perimeter by tactics that included daylight recon patrols, forward observation posts during the day, and listening posts at night. Operation of tactical motor patrols with gun jeeps, sweep and clear operations, relocation of areas of population, and the use of ambush patrols which was the primary tactic in active defense operations. In 1965 the USAF Inspector General in Vietnam presented to the Chief of Staff, USAF the recommendation that a test unit of highly trained Combat Security Police be formed to initiate a new concept, known as "Active Defense." The U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia was selected as the training course for the original cadre of the test unit. Personnel were interviewed and after being selected, sent to Fort Benning where they began Ranger School on May 4,1966. This program was designated "OPERATION SAFESIDE" and was organized at Schofield Barracks Hawaii. Prospective trainees began arriving at Schofield from throughout CONUS, (Continental U.S.) and PACAF ( Pacific Air Forces). The unit was considered light infantry and in 1967 it took over the security of Phu Cat in the Central Highlands whose runway was still under construction. After impressive service this unit was transferred to Ft. Campbell for further training. The 821st CSPS, (Combat Security Police Squadron) was deployed to Phan Rang A.F.B. on April 13,1968, relieving a Battalion of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Security Police took over it's Base Camp and would continue to provide security for Phan Rang until February 1971. My cousin Roy was a Security Policeman and sent to Phan Rang in April of 1969. He was only there about a month when he fell one night while climbing down from a perimeter guard tower. Roy missed a rung in the ladder and fell landing stiff legged and flat footed with the added weight of his steel helmet, M-16, a combat load of ammunition, and flak vest. He said that he was taken to the dispensary where his foot was X-Rayed and medics, thinking his foot was only dislocated, were about to try to reset his foot. Just in time the doctor stopped them after viewing the X-Ray, because he realized that his foot was badly broken. After a few days in the hospital it was decided to send him stateside because by the time his foot healed Roy's tour of duty in Vietnam would be nearly over. Roy had surgeries on his foot and would spend much time in the hospital here in the states.
|Security Police man an armored personnel vehicle in Vietnam|
|Operation Safeside Security Policemen in Vietnam|
|The Blue Berets|
|Security Police on Combat Patrol|
|Security Police defending Ton Son Nhut during the 1968 TET Offensive|
My Security Police unit boarded a C-130 and after landing in Little Rock we disembarked on a remote side of the base. We assembled in a covered area with stadium seats for our initial briefing. While sitting there something bit the fire out of my stomach. I thought I had been stung by a bee it hurt so bad. There was a small lump in my shirt and when I unbuttoned it a large spider crawled out. A large welt with blood oozing out of it had already formed. That was one of the most painful insect bites I ever had. After the meeting we dropped off our gear in a barracks that was pretty bare with a concrete floor. We would sleep on Army cots while we were there. Early each morning we would run a mile and a half and finish up with calisthenics. Each day would be spent in training. We learned fire team tactics, patrolling, setting up ambushes, land navigation, hand and smoke grenade training. Along with this we had to run an obstacle course that was designed by Army Rangers. Toward the end of our two weeks of training we were scheduled to hike out into the field and set up an imaginary perimeter of an air base. Then we would defend it from mock attack for three long days. One thing I noticed about this place that I didn't like at all was the snakes. They were everywhere. I don't think that I had seen this many snakes in Florida when I lived there. The land was very wooded and swampy. I am terrified of snakes. Late one night we were doing patrol training in a swampy area. It was pitch black and the only thing that I could see was the reflective strips on the back of the Kevlar helmets of each man in front of me. All I could think of was stepping on a snake. We were forbidden to use our flashlights for any reason. Suddenly our point man screamed out in terror and almost knocked me down running for the rear. Violating the rules I turned on my flashlight and pointed it where he had been standing. There were what looked like two red eyes looking back at me. He said that he had stepped on what he thought was a log and it had moved out from under him. We later found out that alligators were prevalent in that area. The obstacle course was a challenge for me because of my fear of heights but I got through it. One of our guys gave us a scare when he fell head first off of the ropes over an artificial pond, barely missing the bank and sliding head first into the water. Needless to say he would have broken his neck and killed himself if he had hit the ground instead of the water. Sadly this same man killed himself later that year I believe. He would have a full military funeral and I was honored to be on the firing squad. Finally toward the end of the two weeks we went into the field for three full days. During those three days I probably had no more than four hours sleep and that was in spurts. I wore the same clothes all three days and was pretty funky by the time it was over.
After packing our ruck sacks they weighed about 100 pounds. We were tactical from the time we left our base camp and every time we stopped for anything I would find a tree to lean backwards on to help support the weight of my pack.Upon arrival we immediately began digging our defensive perimeter. I was in a fox hole with a good friend, J. W. Smith, who was a Marine combat veteran in Vietnam. We did nothing but dig all day. As dusk arrived I was already worn out but we were tasked to man the perimeter that night while other units did patrol and ambush duty. Besides our unit there were elements of other Guard units there. Memphis was there I believe along with Ohio and a couple of other states. I had my field jacket on but the night was so cold I thought I was going to freeze to death. It was tough staying awake and every time I nodded off J.W. would bounce a rock off of my helmet. The training cadre acted as the aggressors. It was pitch black and all you could hear was your own breath. Suddenly you would hear the whistle of an artillery simulator, the flash and explosion which was jarring. A flare would be set off and the whole terrain was lit up as if it were daylight. Then we were all firing at once. Just as suddenly it would go dark again and we would resume our watch in the cold and dark. We were attacked several times that night. Just before dawn the war was suspended long enough that we were allowed to come out of our holes and build fires. By this time I was an icicle. After daylight we were replaced in our fighting positions by the other units and we began patrolling and setting up ambushes. A warm front was passing through and the weather became much warmer. It was April and the weather can change pretty radically in the South in a very short time. The day started off bright and sunny. We patrolled all day long and set up an ambush. The woods were full of pines and loaded with ticks. I sat motionless for a long time watching ticks swarming all over my body and I could do very little about it. During those years it was popular for male soldiers to wear pantyhose in order to keep the ticks off. I thought that I would try it myself since I had suffered through tick fever once before and I didn't want it again. One Guard weekend before we deployed to Little Rock I had made the mistake of telling Debbie what I planned to do. We were shopping at the old Wal-Mart in Smyrna when my son Robbie grabbed a pair of pantyhose called "Big Mama's". It had a picture of a heavyset woman on the front of the package. He came up to me holding the package and with a devilish grin on his face said loud enough for everyone to hear, "Dad, are these the size pantyhose that you wear"? I was so embarrassed that I hurried away from him as he ran after me shouting "Dad are these the right pantyhose"? I wanted to kill him but now after all of these years we have a good laugh about it. The pantyhose actually worked well from my waste down but I had plenty of ticks on the upper part of my body. In later years I found out that Avon's Skin So Soft is the best insect repellent out there.
The weather changed rapidly that afternoon and into the night. We were in a downpour all night along with heavy thunder and lightning. I am fearful of lightning and I felt like my rifle was a lightning rod. At one point I remember lying in the rain in a 360 degree circle and seeing a snake crawling over the barrel of a nearby M-16 in the glow of a lightning flash. All day long I had been fighting fatigue. Late that night we were finally allowed to crawl into our pup tents and catch a little sleep. It was raining in a constant steady downpour. J.W. was a fire team leader so he had to attend a briefing before going to bed. For a little while I was in the tent alone. I made the mistake of taking my wet socks and boots off so I could sleep better and wasn't thinking about having to get my dry socks and boots on quickly in the event of an attack during the night. I crawled into my sleeping bag and was asleep by the time my head hit the ground. How long I had been asleep I don't know. When J.W. crawled in the tent to go to bed I woke up and told him that my feet were wet. He said "Pull your f _ _king feet in out of the rain"? Somehow the lower part of my body had slid down out of the entrance to the tent. After pulling my feet in I fell into a dead sleep for the second time. I wasn't asleep long when all hell broke loose. We were being attacked by the aggressors again. I felt like a zombie as I struggled to find my socks in the dark. J.W. was trying to help me while everyone outside was yelling at us to come out and get in a defensive perimeter. When the sun finally came up we walked by our fighting positions that we had dug the day before. The holes had filled to the top with rainwater and the men were sitting around the edges of them in the mud instead of inside them. The rest of the day was spent patrolling and fighting a mock final battle. Late that afternoon we were critiqued and allowed to get our first hot meal in three days. The cooks fixed up some orange juice that I later learned was spiked with pure grain alcohol. After arriving back at our base camp I took my first hot shower in days and crashed on my army cot for about twelve hours straight.
I can't remember exactly when this happened but I believe it was during the summer of 1984 after we came back from Little Rock that TSgt Sam Adams shot himself in the stomach while sitting in his bath tub. Sam had always struck me as being a very nice guy but shy and reserved. Guys in the unit would pick at him in a good natured way and he never seemed to be bothered by it. I was told that he and his wife were having some problems but his suicide came as a total shock to me. Sam was given a full military funeral. I was honored to be a part of his firing squad. In the late summer or early Fall of 1984 we began to see a change in my brother-in-law Hulon Helms. He appeared to be having anxiety attacks. Hulon was losing weight and looking pretty bad. On Thanksgiving Day 1984 we spent the day with Debbie's daddy and stopped by Judy's before going home. I was shocked when I saw Hulon sitting in a rocking chair in his living room. The look on his face gave me a flashback to January 16, 1963 when I saw a similar look on my dad's face. Not only did he have that look but he was hunched over, very skinny, and gaunt looking. I had never seen Hulon like this in all the years I had known him. My sister-in-law Judy was standing in the kitchen and I told her in a low voice that she needed to get help for Hulon. Several days later in the early evening Debbie answered a phone call. After hanging up she told me that Hulon had shot himself and we needed to go to Nashville. At that point we didn't know if he was dead or alive. I called Mark and after picking him up at his house in Smyrna we prayed and sang gospel songs all the way to East Nashville trying to bolster our spirits for whatever situation we might find when we got there. The first thing that we encountered as we turned on to Hayden Drive was a car belonging to a reporter that had crashed into a ditch trying to get to Hulon's house in a hurry. Several police cars were in front of the house and an ambulance was sitting in the driveway. Debbie's sister Sylvia gave us the news that we had been dreading. Hulon was dead. She said that the body was still in the garage. I didn't want to see the body so Judy's neighbor was nice enough to let us stand in her second story bedroom where we could see the door to Judy's garage. Eventually we watched as Hulon was wheeled out in a body bag and placed in the waiting ambulance. We then walked down to the garage where the clean-up was in progress. My brother-in-law John Heaney, who was a Metro Nashville Vice Squad officer, and Syvia's husband, was washing blood and brains off of the floor and walls of the garage with a garden hose. We joined in the clean-up effort and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Blood and brain matter was everywhere. Judy was in a state of shock and trying to help while we were trying to make her go in the house to no avail. After finishing the clean-up we learned of the events that transpired that day. Judy had taken Hulon to the doctor for a physical. After returning home it was decided that Judy and the kids would go to a fast food restaurant and pick up some food for supper. At some point after they left Hulon walked to the kitchen where he kept his .38 caliber service revolver on top of the refrigerator. Hulon worked for Wells Fargo armored car security services. He placed the gun to the right side of his head and pulled the trigger. The back door to the garage from the kitchen was open. Hulon fell head first into the garage, which was about two feet lower than the kitchen floor. In that position he bled out into the garage. Hulon's house was designed exactly like our house on Henry Ford Drive and it brought back images to me of my father falling backwards from the kitchen into our garage banging his head on the concrete floor one day when he was drunk. Unfortunately he survived that fall. When Judy and the kids returned from buying food Nathan was the first to enter the garage. I am thinking that he was about three or four at the time and Judy said that he stopped dead in his tracks at the side door entrance of the garage. He was the first to see his daddy's body. When Judy saw Hulon she called 911. Recently she told me that he had problems with his thyroid which probably contributed to his suicide. Hulon came from a large family and he had a brother that also committed suicide. I don't think that I have ever had a friend as close as I was to Hulon. We could tell each other our deepest and darkest secrets. He was like a brother to me. I was brokenhearted about his death but angry at the same time. To me suicide is the most selfish act that a person can commit. The person doing it is so focused on their own problems that they refuse to consider how their loved ones are impacted. I must confess that I have fantasized about suicide many times in my life. My biggest deterrent, besides the fact that I am a coward, is that I remember how I felt after my fathers suicide and the murder of my mother. I don't want to ever hurt my family like that. When I am thinking about suicide I am thinking how my death would make people take me seriously. It would make them feel guilty and they would finally take me and my problems seriously. Ultimately it is taking revenge on that person. In my father's case his revenge was not only taking himself but my mother too. Another motivation for suicide is that the person just wants to end a physical or emotional pain that they are going through. I believe that everyone wants to live but ending the pain trumps the will to live many times. In the end it takes real courage to somehow overcome the obstacles of life and the ones who can are the real heroes.
In the late Spring of 1985 our whole Air Guard unit took part in a NATO exercise called Volant Partner. All of our C-130's were loaded down with personnel and equipment for the long flight to a search and rescue base on the coast of Belgium called Koksijde. This was a Belgian Air Force base that had been built by the German Luftwaffe in WW2. The base reminded me of a WW2 movie set with German bunkers and perimeter fencing from that era. It was also where Belgian Air Force cadets took their basic training. The base was in a very historic area. The town of Ypres was nearby, where several great WW1 battles were fought and Koksijde was only about five miles from Dunkirk. The medieval town of Bruges was nearby and Bruges was not only beautiful, it is the lace capital of the world. I was excited about going to such a historic area of Europe but I was beset by a strange premonition before I left. Flying is always something that makes me nervous but in this case I was more afraid than usual. I just felt like something bad was going to happen and it was almost overwhelming. On the morning that we left it was a stormy and rainy day. As far as the number of people we were lucky in that the only ones on the plane besides the air crew was part of our Security Police Flight. We had plenty of seating available but I don't think that I have ever been on a C-130 that was packed with as much heavy equipment as this plane was. The plane was even carrying an extra engine for one of our planes that had lost an engine coming into the Azores. It was carrying an advance number of our Security Police Flight that had left the day before. Their mission was to prepare the way for the rest of us when we arrived in Belgium. The C-130 is capable of carrying extremely heavy payloads but with my premonition, the weather and the load we were carrying, I was sweating bullets on take-off. I had great respect for our pilots and maintenance crews. Our pilot was one of the best in the 105th. He was a very big and tall man that was a Vietnam veteran. Most of our pilots and maintenance crews were Vietnam era veterans with many years of experience. In that respect we were luckier than the regular Air Force pilots and maintenance crews who were for the most part much younger and not as experienced. However their planes and equipment were much newer than ours. We were flying on the oldest C-130's in the Air Force inventory. On average these planes were built in 1953. They all had bullet holes from Vietnam in addition to load restrictions from cracks in the wings and fuselages. There were no problems on take-off however and after leveling off at cruising altitude we were above the rain and storms. After a five hour flight we landed in Sheerwater near Halifax Nova Scotia. After refueling we took off for the Azores. Because of losing the engine the advance crew met us on arrival in the Azores. The next morning both planes flew out together and we landed at Koksijde without any further problems. I loved Belgium from the start. Germany was great, and there were very nice people there, but the Belgian people were awesome. I was told that we were the first Americans to be stationed in that area since WW2 and the people were very friendly. This goodwill goes back to WW2 after the American army helped liberate the Belgians from the Germans. The Belgians traded patches, uniforms and everything they could with us. They just wanted anything American. I laughed one day when I saw a car full of Belgian Airmen pass me on a road with a Confederate license plate on the front of their car. This was clear evidence that the Tennessee Air National Guard was in town. I traded a patch for a worn out Belgian beret that I still have. There were things about Belgium that weren't so great. We ate in the same chow hall as the Belgians and were fed from their daily fare, which wasn't much. I always left the chow hall feeling unsatisfied. They would serve small portions and it might be something as simple as bread, a piece of ham and a vegetable. I was always hungry. There was a grocery store nearby and I would have to buy snacks to supplement my diet during the day. Another thing that bothered me was that Europeans do not use ice very much. Soft drinks are served at room temperature. I would buy drinks and keep them cold by sitting them on my window ledge overnight. Even though it was late Spring the nights were cold in Belgium. Belgian culture took a little getting used to. We had young women taking care of our barracks and it didn't matter if I was buck naked in the shower they would just walk in as if I wasn't there. I noticed them but they didn't seem to notice me. Men and women would also use the restrooms together. I worked shift work while I was there and the duty was pretty routine. We guarded the flight line and did mobile patrol. On our off time we would hang out in downtown Koksijde. I loved their restaurants and candy shops where you could also buy awesome ice cream. Koksijde was in the Dunkirk sector on the English Channel and the beaches were very wide. There was a military cemetery next to the base and I spent a lot of time walking through it where many British soldiers were buried that had been killed in both WW1 and WW2. Flemish and French languages were spoken by the locals. Flemish sounds like German to me. I couldn't understand them but they had no problem understanding me. This was because they were just across the channel from England and they had access to English television programs. There was a Belgian Airmen on base that drew a picture of Melanie from a snapshot. The high point of our Belgium trip was our tour of Bruges. It was a beautiful medieval city with canals and cathedrals. It reminded me somewhat of what Venice Italy might look like. I bought Deb some lace and on the way back we saw many WW2 German pill boxes that were part of Hitlers famous Atlantic Wall defenses.
|British War Cemetery|
We got off of a midnight shift on a Saturday morning and boarded one of our C-130's bound for Upper Heyford Royal Air Force Base in Oxfordshire England. After landing we changed out of our uniforms and hailed some taxis that took us on a scary ride down narrow curvy country English roads. Doing this on the left side of the road instead of the right, as Americans are used to, was very frightening. Our destination was a railroad station where we boarded a train that took us through the beautiful English countryside. After finally arriving in London we walked all over London trying to find the tourist sites like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben. We rode on the tube, which is a name for the London subway. Much of the subway was the same subway used as bomb shelters during the London Blitz. After a steep climb we ended up at Picadilly Circus. This was a whirlwind trip in which we were trying to pack a lot into a couple of days. We wasted a lot of time looking for these places which taught me a valuable lesson. It is better to hire a tour guide in a big city that you are unfamiliar with rather than trying to find these places on your own. Late that afternoon we started looking for a bed and breakfast. We were worn out and had been up many hours. There were about eight of us in our group as we walked through a London neighborhood looking for somewhere to stay. Curiously I noticed the names and phone numbers of women written on every utility pole we passed. I wasn't sure what this meant but I had a good idea. There were rows of tenements. There would be sections that were very nice right alongside tenements that were dingy and rundown. At one of these rundown tenements I noticed a very heavyset Black man sitting in a windowsill with a haggard looking White woman sitting between his legs. It was obvious that this man was pimping this woman. Just then a man ran out of this building that reminded me of Muammar Gaddafi. He was trying to talk us into renting rooms from him. I was hanging out with a good friend named Jerry Honeycut and he said what I was already thinking. "Come on, I'm not staying here." The others were walking in with the man as we turned to walk off. Just around the corner we found a very nice bed and breakfast. We were just getting settled into our room when we heard a knock on our door. It was some of the other guys. They told us that they paid the man for rooms but they were shocked at what they saw. Feces were on the walls and the beds were absolutely filthy. They said that they were going to stay at our bed and breakfast but they had lost their money at the other place. The man refused to give their money back. After a very restful sleep and a great breakfast the next morning we set out for Victoria station. While walking down the street we met two London Bobby's. Although these London cops were not carrying guns they were huge and looked like they could easily handle themselves in a fight. They asked us why we were staying in the red light district. That explained why the names and phone numbers of so many women were written on the utility poles. Cheap advertising. After boarding the train we headed toward historic Dover England and the White Cliffs of Dover. There we boarded a jet foil and I got some great pictures of the cliffs as we headed across the English channel to Ostend Belgium. The channel was choppy and before boarding I was beginning to regret not buying Dramamine for the boat trip. I just knew I would throw my guts up. To my surprise the jet foil boat ride was very smooth. It was as if it was floating in air over the waves, which it was. On the way across the channel I met a veteran of WW2 who was returning to Belgium for the fortieth anniversary of VE Day. This was his first trip to Europe since the war. Soon our trip to Belgium was over and we headed home. We boarded the same aircraft that we flew over on and we had the same aircrew So far the whole trip had been uneventful and my fear of something happening had subsided quite a bit. The flight from Belgium to the Azores was about six hours. We were about an hour and twenty-five minutes out of the Azores when I felt a slight shudder in the plane. When I am flying I try not to worry until I see the crew become worried. Suddenly the load master ran over to look out the window at one of the engines. We had lost an engine but the plane did not seem to be affected that much. I knew that C-130's routinely flew on just three engines and could even fly on two. In 1986 while on jury duty I met a C-130 pilot that was the only person to successfully fly on one engine and land safely. The only thing that worried me was that we were carrying such a heavy load. Our pilot was the best and we made a very gradual descent, making the smoothest landing in the Azores that I ever recall. After another seven hour flight we landed at Sheerwater for refueling. After a short layover we were on our way back to Nashville. As always I was glad to see my family and be back home. I had all but forgotten about my premonition of doom until I went back to work. When I walked into our rework area one of the women there was looking at me like she had seen a ghost. She said "Greg, I can't explain it, but I had the feeling that I was never going to see you again."
|Me in front of Buckingham Palace|
We had a C-130 that had a throttle cable snap while doing "touch and go's" at Ft. Campbell in 1986. The plane crashed while landing and killed the pilot, navigator, and load master. Two crewmen of which one was the co-pilot survived. The co-pilot received minor burns to his face because he managed to run out through the rear of the plane and away from the flames. The other four were engulfed. The man who survived underwent months of treatment at Brook Army Burn Center in San Antonio Texas. I was the chapel song leader and I was honored when they asked me to lead the singing at the memorial for the three men who died. The only problem was that they asked me to prepare two songs that I had never heard of in my life and I can't read music. They were Our God of Ages Past and My Faith Looks Up To Thee. Our God of Ages Past was the opening song and for some reason no matter how much I practiced I could not get that song in my head. All four local television channels had a camera in my face. The service was held in a big hanger with a large crowd that included the family members of the dead Airmen, most of the members of the 105th Air Wing, dignitaries, State Adjutant General Carl Wallace and then Governor Lamar Alexander. As I sat there I began to panic because I had no clue how the song started in my mind. All I could see was myself looking like a complete and total fool in front of all those people and the television audience at home. However I weighed that against the fact that my problem was small compared to those families that had lost loved ones. I said a quick prayer. Miracle of miracles God came through for me that day and I nailed it. God is good.
|The three men killed in the crash|
|General Carl Wallace and Governor Lamar Alexander|
|The widow of Major Tim Myers|
I had been a supervisor at Cumberland-Swan for about six months when my supervisor, who I will call Bill, was demoted and a new man took his place. This new man, who I will call Bob, gave me a bad feeling from the very start. He had the look of a person that could stab you in the back with a big grin on his face the whole time. My old supervisor Bill wasn't anything to write home about. He was wishy washy and scared of his own shadow. I had heard that he had witnessed a supervisor murdered on the job after that supervisor had disciplined an employee at Cumberland-Swan's old Nashville location years before. One could understand his paranoia but it was frustrating whenever I had to get his approval to write someone up. On one occasion I had his permission to write up a utility man that was constantly laying out. When I gave him the warning letter he ripped it up and threw it in my face. After he went to my supervisor about the letter Bill freaked out and told me not to write him up rather than standing his ground and supporting me. There was another guy who was an absolute fruit cake and a twenty year military veteran. I hate to say this but at Swan we had several career military veterans and they were some of my most difficult employees I had. I was a little scared of this guy myself but I don't like to be bullied. In my opinion this guy was acting crazy more as a way to intimidate us than anything else. I didn't put up with his crap. One day I asked him to do something and he went off on me right in front of Bill. I looked at Bill for support but instead he turned on me. Bill was terrified of the crazy guy. Even with Bill's faults I felt like he liked me and was not out to get me. Bob on the other hand did not like me and he quickly had me black-balled with upper management. He called me into his office one day and told me he was giving me a lateral promotion, which was a demotion to me. My heart sank because he wasn't giving me any more money and he was putting me into what I considered to be a nearly impossible situation. I would now be a compounding supervisor instead of a production supervisor. Next to being fired this was the absolute worst news that I could have received. I was overwhelmed. Pressing aspirin and saccharine were one thing but I was totally unsuited to supervise this department. Or at least I thought so. I found out later that Bob put me there hoping I would fail and he could then get rid of me. Bob had spies watching me from within the compounding department and they were reporting back to him. I noticed a change in how people were treating me. They seemed to be avoiding me and treating me like a leper. Because I didn't know what I was doing I screwed up a couple of formula's each worth hundreds of dollars. In my mind my days were numbered and I was going to be fired. I would go into the restroom every chance I got and just sit in a stall for as long as I could get away with it or find some other hiding place. It felt like the walls had eyes and everyone was watching me. I couldn't trust anyone. This went on for what seemed like forever but it was probably only a couple of months. I prayed a lot during this time for the Lord to deliver me from this situation. It was my prayer that God would help me find a better job. I was so desperate to leave I was even willing to take a cut in pay and I tried to get into law enforcement. If I had my life to do over I would have avoided manufacturing jobs like the plague and gone into either a career in law or in law enforcement. I put in an application for the uniformed Secret Service in Washington D.C. and an application for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The Secret Service paid 20,000 dollars a year, which was what I was being paid by Swan. I would be at a definite disadvantage because I would have to pay higher rent near Washington and the cost of living was much greater there. In addition I would have to pay for the move. When I reached the panel interview they were very impressed that I had never drank alcohol or taken drugs. They spent a lot of time grilling me on this. It was almost like they didn't believe me. They also asked why I would be so willing to make such a move to Washington for the same money that I was making at Swan. I was honest when I told them that I was very unhappy in my job and because of my military police experience I would like to get back into law enforcement. It soon became obvious that they didn't want to hire me because they felt like it would put me in a precarious financial position. In other words, I would be vulnerable to bribery or corruption. I just wanted a chance because I knew I could pull it off but it wasn't going to happen. Debbie and I had gone through much worse in Oregon and Florida. The Highway Patrol was much more promising however. I only missed one question on their test and I made it to the panel interview. By the time that this happened however my situation at work had improved dramatically. One day I learned that my tormentor Bob was being promoted to Human Resources and a guy named Mike was replacing Bob. I got a different vibe from Mike. He treated me with a lot more respect and I got the feeling he actually liked me. Mike called me in to his office one day. I can't remember his exact words but it was something like this. He said Greg, I am going to be honest with you. Your value to management is pretty low right now. He told me that Bob had put me in compounding because he expected me to fail there. Mike then told me that I was a hard worker and he wanted to help me improve my standing within the company. It would be up to me to change my image but he would give me pointers on how to do it. I then asked him to take me out of compounding because I was more suited for production. He said that he would try to make it happen. One suggestion that Mike made was that I should began writing memos to upper management with ideas for improvement. He said that I should bombard them with memos so I would be noticed by management. After a few weeks he called me back to to his office. The memos were helping but he made me a surprising offer. They were creating a new third shift and wanted to put me in charge of it. He had good news and bad news for me. The good news was that I was going back to production and I would be the only supervisor on third shift. The bad news was that I would also be in charge of compounding. I didn't want to have anything to do with compounding. However I did not realize at the time that he was giving me a great opportunity to prove myself. I had an advantage that other production supervisors didn't have. When a line was being set up for a certain product, like alcohol, peroxide, witch hazel, citrate of magnesia and other products the production supervisor had to wait for compounding to connect the product to the line. As a compounding supervisor I could hook the line up myself and as quickly as I wanted to. I didn't have to wait for anyone, other than Quality Assurance, to begin production. Over time my production percentages continued to rise. I had third shift all to myself and I was getting the lions share of the credit for the numbers. My status with upper management changed dramatically and people were treating me with respect again and I was actually beginning to like the job. Then out of the blue I got a call from a friend who worked at the Tennessee Department of Employment Security. She asked if I would be interested in a job at Bridgestone Tire Company in Lavergne. Of course I said yes. In retrospect I wish that I had continued to pursue the job at the Highway Patrol. In the end I think I would have been happier. I came to loathe my job at Bridgestone before I retired in 2010. However the starting pay at Bridgestone was about 45,000 dollars a year with regular raises over the first six months of my employment. There was no way that I could turn down this opportunity. I began the interview process at Bridgestone . I made it through the first couple of interviews okay. It was the early Summer of 1987 and my Guard unit was going back to Gernany in July. I loved Germany and was looking forward to going back. Especially in the summer when it would be warm. I was nervous because the next step in the interview process at Bridgestone was a panel interview and I was afraid that they would schedule it during the same two weeks that I would be in Germany. My fears were soon realized when I learned that the panel interview would be held right in the middle of my scheduled two week deployment. I called my commander and told him that my interview was during our camp and I couldn't go. He was very unhappy and told me that if I didn't go he could not excuse my absence. My commander suggested that I ask Bridgestone if they could reschedule the interview. They told me that if I missed the interview there was no guarantee if and when I would get another one. I just couldn't take that chance. It pained me to do it but I had tell my commander I couldn't go. As expected he was very upset and told me that my absence would be unexcused. I went to the interview and soon learned that I had been hired. After this I was scheduled for training. A year later in the summer of 1988, we were scheduled for two weeks of training at Hurlburt Field Florida. I was livid when I found out that several of our airmen were being excused from going to camp for Metro Nashville Police Academy. They explained that it would hurt their career if they missed the Academy. I wondered how their career was more important than my career. This was when my attitude toward the Guard began to slowly change.
Sometime in November or December 1986 Misty was supposed to go to an all night skate party in Smyrna. We let her go thinking that she would stay in the building all night and it was supposed to be chaperoned so we thought that it would be okay. I had a rule that my kids could not car date until they were sixteen. She was fourteen and seeing an older boy named Marshall. He was coming over to our house to see her on a fairly regular basis. The morning after the skating party Debbie told me that she had discovered that Misty had left the skating party with Marshall and had gone over to his house. I never whipped Misty more than a couple of times in her life but I was very angry at her over this. Even though she was fourteen I thought that she needed a whipping and I gave her one with my belt. Debbie was normally at home with our kids when they were growing up but during the 1980's after I lost my job at Colonial, it became necessary for her to work. She tried to work in the morning when the kids were in school and to be off in time for them when they returned home in the afternoon. The only time the kids were at home by themselves was when they were out during the holidays. In 1986 I was working day shifts at Swan. One morning, during the Christmas break, I left for work and half way there I realized that I had forgotten something. I drove back home and when I opened the door I found Marshall in the house. I made him leave and I was mad but in a hurry to get to work. In retrospect I should have banned him from our house and read him the riot act but I didn't. Sometime later, probably after the New Year, I was asleep when I felt Debbie lay down on top of me. She put her mouth close to my ear and said in a low voice, "Your daughter is pregnant". It felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I asked her how she knew and she said that she was pretty sure of it. I sat down with Misty and I told her that I was only going to say this one time and I would never bring the subject up again. What you did was wrong and you know that it was wrong. You were not raised this way. She started crying but I told her that we now had a baby to raise and that was the most important thing to consider from that point on. I told her that she might have done an adult act but she was still a child. She was in the ninth grade but I was determined that she was going to finish high school. I would become the baby's legal guardian so it would have medical insurance and could be supported financially. It was understood that she was not going to marry Marshall. This is something that I did not believe in. I was not going to force her into a bad marriage. Debbie and I had already figured out that Marshall was no good but I told her that if they were still together after graduation and they wanted to get married I would give them my blessing. The next day I called our pediatrician and told him that I thought Misty was pregnant. The first words out of his mouth was "bring her in to the office and we will give her a pregnancy test. "If is is positive we will take her to Planned Parenthood and get an abortion". I was struck by the coldness and callousness of his words. Without hesitation I said "there are no abortions in this family". He sounded angry with me and said "just bring her in and we will make the decision then". Debbie, Misty, and myself went to his office the next day. I was very proud of them because they both stood up to the doctor. When I took Misty in for her first follow-up visit. He was so angry with me that he barely spoke. I learned later that his wife was a big wig at Planned Parenthood. When my granddaughter was born I sent him her picture and I wrote on the back, "This is what you wanted to get rid of". I also wrote the verse from Jeremiah 1-5 which says "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." There are many other verses in the Bible that highlight the sanctity of life and of the unborn. When Elizabeth met Mary, who was carrying John the Baptist, the scriptures say that he leapt in the womb. (Luke 1:41 - And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. Psalm 139:13-16 Verse 13 - For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16-Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be). Most women I have talked to, who have had abortions, cannot talk about it without weeping. Feminists try to make the subject of abortion into a male vs. female issue. Because I am male I have no right to even voice an opinion. If abortion was the same as removing a mole I could agree with them. However it has been shown that a baby is a completely separate person. A baby can even have a totally different blood type than the mother. The taking of life is an issue that should be of concern to everyone.
Misty continued to see Marshall while she was pregnant but I still wouldn't let her car date. We didn't want to do anything that might drive them closer together. I wanted her to arrive at a decision one way or the other about Marshall on her on and I was hoping that in the end she would see him for what he really was. I could almost understand why Marshall was like he was after I met his mother. We met her for the first time in the K-Mart parking lot in Smyrna. She ran up to Debbie and told her how excited she was about Misty being pregnant. It made me so mad I just turned around and walked away, leaving Debbie alone with her. I wasn't excited about my daughter being pregnant at the tender age of 14. She came around for awhile, even after the baby was born, but when it finally dawned on her that we were not going to let her son marry Misty, she dropped out of the picture. One night when Misty was pretty far along in her pregnancy she and Marshall were standing out near the street in our front yard. I saw a boy dressed in camouflage in the street and it looked like they were talking. After a while Misty came to the back door and she looked very scared. I asked her what was wrong. She said that the boy had pulled a pistol on her. I tried to call the police but before I could call them I saw blue lights in front of our house. Marshall had called them from a neighbors house. The boy had a loaded 45 caliber pistol and a bag full of knives, throwing stars and nunchucks. The police officer told me that the boy was very dangerous. I didn't know the boy but I knew his father. He lived a couple of miles from our house and I believe that he had some affiliation with the Klan. When we first moved to Rutherford County there was a large sign in front of his house that read, "This Is Klan Country". Many days I would run down his road and sometimes he would drive by me drunk as a skunk. One day he offered me a beer. I believe that the thing that sparked the sons anger was that he was jealous of Marshall. He was a classmate of Misty and I think that he had a crush on her. The following day we had to be in court for the boys arraignment. We were standing in the hallway when the boys parents walked by and stood nearby. His dad was glaring at me the whole time. After a while they brought the boy past us in shackles. I can't remember what the judge decided that day but a few months later this same boy, who I didn't recognize, came up to me and shook my hand. His whole appearance had changed and he was dressed well and no longer wearing camouflage. He apologized to me for how he behaved that night. Being arrested was probably the best thing that could of happened to him. On September 4, 1987 Misty delivered my granddaughter Courtney Danielle Segroves at Southern Hills hospital in Nashville. She looked a lot like Marshall, aka the (sperm donor). The Segroves family has a Cherokee heritage but it was very evident in Marshall's family. I believe that he had a grandfather that was full blooded Cherokee. Courtney was our little papoose. She was a blessing from God and although I wasn't expecting to raise another child at the age of 37, I wouldn't have had it any other way. As far as I was concerned she was my daughter rather than my granddaughter. She would call me daddy and still does. Courtney called Debbie granny, which could lead to some embarrassing situations. When Courtney was about 5 or 6 we overheard her talking to one of her little friends on the phone. Apparently her friend was asking about her situation. She tried to explain it by saying "My daddy is married to my granny". We always intended to turn over guardianship to Misty when that became possible but for one reason or another it never became possible. My first concern was for Courtney's welfare and although Misty was a loving mother and protective of her, she was involved in some relationships that I just didn't feel safe relinquishing my guardianship both for health insurance purposes and for her safety.
|Misty signing in to Southern Hills on 9-4-87|
|Courtney Danielle Segroves|
|Sylvia, Debbie and Melanie|