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J. Wilborn
Posts: 41
(2/10/01 7:18:41 am)
It has been more than 30 years since I left the Navy. I retired and lived near our Seabee in California and went to work for Sears Roebuck--. Did I miss the Navy you ask? You bet your sweet bippie I missed the Navy. I had been there since my graduation from high school--since I was seventeen years old. Now at thirty seven with four children to raise, I had to get on with the matter of scuffling for a buck. A portion of my educational benefit was used for the Sear Mangerial Training Program. In the home inprovement section of the big retail store I made my mark but wages were meager. I was offered a move to Merced,California but the
mental ties with the Seabee base and my old comrads-in--arms was too strong and I declined the offer.
One day I had a call from Customer Service to come there. Thinking that I had a cantankerous customer to deal with, I went to be thrown to the lions. What a joy ---just a pure joy, that day when I arrived at the
office of the customer service manager. There, resplendant in Navy dress blues, with two and a half gold stripes on the sleeve--a chest full of ribbons and smile as big and open as the plains of America whence he had come, was Mr. Palmer Sell. The office staff stood around grinning---I recall there were hand shakes, ---those kind of hand clasps where you just can't--don't want to let go. Those were the days before the moods of weeping had entered my life but I just almost wanted to weep with joy. We had been thru so much together. After returning from Vietnam in 1969 where Mr. Sell had been my S-2 officer, I had gone on back to the NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) training program. Mr. Sell had completed his two year active duty stint and returned to his Civil Engineering job of building bridges. As we stood there in th Customer Service area, more than a few female glances were tossed his way. He sure looked good in those Navy Blues--and he was still single. We went down to the cafeteria and had lunch and of course relived our two tours in-country. His naval reserve unit back in Wisconsin had sent him to the Seabee base for specialized training if there would be a chance of his being deployed to the island of Diego Garcia. The Seabees had been assigned the monumental task of building facilities on that Indian Ocean enclave--a site that would come into world prominence a decade later when the Gulf War was waged. I invited Mr. Sell for dinner at my home that evening but his schedule would not permit the time. He told me that he was engaged to be married--the prospective bride was a theology student and they would be wed the following spring. I didn't mention it but Mr. Sell was a very spiritual person--never swore, smoked, or drank--but he was that kind of person who didn't flaunt it to others--not in your face with the 'THOU MUST NOTS'. We said out goodbys once again --promised to stay in touch (which we never did) but our intentions were honorable none the
less. I left Sears employment--worked for a while at the Naval Missile Test Center, and then went into the plumbing business for myself. It must have been around August of 72, got a call from Mr. Sell. Again he was there for his Naval training--but this time he had his new bride with him. They had been wed in June and he sounded like a foolish young boy over the phone--he still called me Senior Chief--I couldn't call him anything except Mr. Sell--funny about that--just seemed right is all. Well, as luck would have it, they could accept our invitation to have lunch with us. With Mr. Sell, though he had known me all those years, he had never been to my home--we had a nice home--five bedrooms and my business office. He was very impressed--Mr. Sell had married a lovely girl--her name was Nancy--the two went togther like sugar and spice--both slim and dark complected--elegantly dressed and Mr. Sell this time had three full gold stripe on his blues--and the scrambled eggs on the brim of his hat. Later service whites would be the uniform but the blues in August had been for a photo shoot at the school. What a wonderful and marvelous lunch we had--of course there was some remembrances of the war--the Vietnamese experience--but not much. The ladies got along and chatted endlessly about mindless things--Navy Commander Palmer Sell and I just enjoyed each others company so very much--. But that too would have to end--we separated that summer day and went about the business of life. About Thanksgiving time we got a call from Nancy Sell from Wisconsin. She had asked for Senior Chief Wilborn--I got on the phone thinking what a joy--soon she'd be handing the phone off to my old boss--the man with the funny name--Palmer--funny name--only man I ever knew with that name.
I sensed almost at once that Nancy was grieving--the dull listless timbre of her tone. Such ovewhelming disbelief I felt when she told me that Mr. Sell had just passed away hours before--that he had asked her to notify me after his death. It seems Mr. Sell had encountered this very virulent, rapid acting cancer of the lungs and lympth system--from the time of it's onslaught to his death was scarce weeks. My God, such a terrible lousy break---and I felt like shouting it to the world that the man--this man--my friend was not deserving of such a horrible break. My wife, relegious person that she is later referred to it as 'FAITH TESTING'. I spoke as well I could to Nancy and then excused myself--she had given the details with pertinent addresses so we could honor his memory with appropriate gestures. I suppose if I were ever to write about THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTER I HAVE EVER MET', Mr. Palmer Sell would head the list.
About three years ago, I was going through a terrible time in my life. My oldest son John had died of AIDS and depressions that one cannot imaigine, settles over one like a black blanket. I started dreaming about Mr. Palmer Sell--sometimes from Vietnam--other times when I had seen him last. I was compelled to do something--I could no longer sleep--Neosho, Wisconsin--I had remembered that had been the family home. I called and asked for any Sells listed--the operator inquired as to names--I tossed out Palmer--"Yes, we have a Palmer Sell listed--I'll connect you". Every note that midwestern twang--that accent--Ronald Reagan type accent--Mr. Sell sounded that way--that midwest twang--Mr. Sell's grand old father sounded just like his son--God I was astounded--overjoyed--emotions without description. Mr. Sell Senior told me that they knew of Senior Chief Wilborn--it seems as if their son had told them of me--he told me that only recently he and his wife, Palmer' mother had been trying to get some photos of their Son Palmer--my friend--my old S-2 boss. Well, I had two year books from Vietnam--one for each time there--Palmer had been very active in the battalion sports activities as well as the Chaplains and other civic action programs. I gleaned a lot of photos for them from my yearbooks. They were overjoyed--Mr. Sell Senior had been a tanker in WWII--still lived on the family farm--his address is even without a house number--just a Rural Route number. I sent him and
Mrs. Sell a John's Angel that I make in memory of my son--yes, we both wept over the phone--there was tears of sadness but also tears of joy that we had had our sons as long as we did.
Wilborn sends.

Edited by: high2fly at: 12/18/01 10:26:43 am
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