Remembering my uncle, Garry Jolliff, one of my first childhood heroes (1944-2002) who passed away 10 years ago, tomorrow.

Uncle Garry fought in Vietnam, and was severely wounded. Indiana’s US Senator, Birch Bayh, finally succeeded in having Uncle Garry removed from the battlefield where he was left for quite some time. He recovered (or so we thought), and returned to the battlefield. Upon his return, shrapnel was discovered lodged near his spine, and despite countless lengthy surgeries, it could not completely be removed. Before he was even 30, the paralysis had begun, eventually consuming the brave soldier who then became the brave civilian, ravaging a battle against our government that would finally compensate other Vietnam veterans their disability. If I remember correctly, Uncle Gary, paralyzed from the neck down, was only receiving 10% disability!

While Uncle Garry was in Vietnam, we often recorded messages to him on a tape machine to send him. After listening to our messages, he would record for us. Those were exciting times in my childhood, and even more so when he returned home from the battlefield.

While vacationing in Washington, DC, in August 1969, we were seated around a fountain, soaking our tired feet in the cool water very near The Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial. A group of soldiers appeared, and thinking Uncle Garry might be in the mass of khaki, I excitedly stood to search for him, unaware that the slimy floor of the angled bottom would pull me underwater. My father grabbed me by the shirt, probably saving me from drowning, or experiencing near-drowning.

He was a wonderful uncle, and one who often filled in for his older brother as another dad in my youth. Some of my most fun weekend trips – Reds games, Kings Island, Indiana Beach, fishing, boating – were spent with him!

Rest in peace, Dear Uncle, and may the choirs of angels continue to sing thee to thy rest…