Thoughts during July 4 fireworks for a military brat of ten-year USMC fighter-attack pilot: Checkerboarders


The local volunteer firefighters again invited me to do the blessing for their safety just before heading off into the field to light up the darkness. We thank the Lord, Saint Michael and Angel Guardians that it all went well.

Meanwhile the families of the firefighters and firefighters in training and EMTs and police and police in training were at the minimum distance away. There was gunpowder bits and firework rubbish falling on us, and the occasional bit of still fiery firework would fall in the grass right in front of us (but not on or behind us).

Meanwhile my dad, George Byers, Jr., getting shot down in North Korea while Squadron leader for the Corsair Checkerboarders, came to mind. Having anti-aircraft fire (DShKM) take out your engine, covering your windows with engine oil isn’t a great experience. He did survive, of course (I’m here!). He crashed it on a beach in between the cliffs jutting out into the ocean. I once did the google earth thing and I think I found just where it happened. He said a ground force of his own USMCs came and picked him up. But I’m sure that that kind of thing stays with you, a bit of PTSD. It happens. Nothing you can do about it. PTSD doesn’t say you’re weak. It says that you’ve been willing to lay your life down in service of your fellow man, which also includes the North Koreans. I mean, he wrote poetry about the peasants in their rice fields, flying just over their heads on the way to take out a munitions train or rail bridge used for military purposes. He had the utmost respect for these people, and his being of service for them would make him write diary entries of his own dreams for political life in these USA. The USMC at Andrews in Washington would put him through Georgetown law school to start him on his way while he continued training the guys how to fly.


Not my dad’s plane, but this is what he said it looked like, what with the prop becoming like a food-mixer beater. Lt. Joe Bibby, the pilot of this plane, also survived.

Meanwhile I am reminded of John Adams’ words about illuminations (=fireworks, which were invented, by the way, in the 7th Century AD):

[This day] of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Meanwhile we thank our military for protecting the Constitution of these USA and the free exercise of religion which we enjoy. The solemn acts of devotion include public acts of prayer, including, of course, Holy Mass, when the Word of the Father became incarnate and we saw the glory of God, the light shining in the darkness. The “illuminations” recall not only the violence of the battle on the ground or in the sky, but also the illumination, if you will, of the glory of God who, Incarnate, dies on the Cross for us in the most ferocious battle of the most ferocious war. All that went into the prayer just before the “illuminations” began. A wonderful, memorable evening. I just love being a priest.


Filed under Military, Patriotism

2 responses to “Thoughts during July 4 fireworks for a military brat of ten-year USMC fighter-attack pilot: Checkerboarders

  1. elizdelphi

    I met someone yesterday who told me in very poor English about his love for the United States, this man was ahead of me in line at a food pantry getting food and just started telling me about himself though I could hardly understand him. Honestly I did not understand well what he was saying but it was dramatic. It involved the Vietnam war, soldiers, Ho Chi Minh and bombs and millions of dead and the jungle and the CIA and being resettled in Cincinatti, Ohio in 1976. Whatever he had been through seemed like it would be PTSD inducing. I was not sure if he was a Vietnamese solider who helped the US (which was what I thought he was saying) or Hmong, there were lots of Laotian Hmong people resettled in Madison so that would fit. What came across was not just how horrifying the Vietnam War was but how fantastic he found the United States, having come there from out of a jungle with bombs raining down. He recounted skiing in Colorado apparently some time shortly after coming to the US and that it was not costly then. To this day he seemed to be ecstatic to be here and well taken care of and get a monthly pension, modest but enough. I wondered if it was the 4th of July that had brought these thoughts to the forefront of his mind that he wanted to tell a random younger American. I was grateful he did and liked this man so much in part because too often at food pantries people are dwelling on their woes and feeling vulnerable, bitter and sorry for themself being in need. His wife and daughter were there too. Another time at the same mobile food pantry, which is held at a high rise housing project, I met a tall old man who was very proud he had recently been inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. You meet interesting and likeable people among the poor, crippled, blind and lame.

  2. James Anderson

    We all love you being a priest who enlightens and inspires us.

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