EXCERPT FROM “HEIRS OF HONOR” – ‘UNCLE’


“….Wilson spoke with a powerful baritone voice that was decidedly southern, in origin.  He was the only black officer in our camp.  He had immense calloused hands that seemed uncomfortable holding papers.  On meeting, he shook with an unexpected gentleness.  He was over six feet and easily two twenty.  A typical Beret; with well developed chest and arms.  His eyes, being deep set, made him appear intense and hostile at times, but he wasn’t.  A beaming smile and an air of good humor offset that impression.  He frequently laughed, and that deep voice of his reverberated in our bunker….”

“….It was Jim, and his uncontrollable sarcasm, that re-nicknamed Wilson from ‘Turf’ to ‘Uncle’.  We’d been out for forty hours, and were trying to call for an artillery strike to slow our pursuers.  Twice, the coordinates we gave were misunderstood, or taken down wrong.  On the last request, they came close to hitting us.  We had to scramble for our lives, with our own shells pursuing us.  That’s when our team overheard Wilson cursing an officer in the FDC (Fire Direction Center)….”

“….Wilson thundered into the mike, “Listen, you dumb fuck, get your superior on the line…”

“….There was a short silence, followed by a disdainful voice, dripping with authority and indignation at the inconvenience, “This is Lt. Colonel Rand.  I advise you to watch your language.  I’ll not tolerate my men being cursed at, or insulted…”

“….Rand, this is Tom Wilson.  Your trained ape almost killed us, twice.  Retrain your men, Rand, and keep them off the phones until they know how to read a map.  Get your men to pay attention and stop fucking around.  Now, you take down these coordinates, and try to get them right, Lt. Colonel, Sir!” Wilson hissed.  His tone was malevolent, as if he was on the brink of control.  He repeated the coordinates, without waiting for Rand’s response….”

“….Whoever Lt. Colonel Rand was, when he heard Wilson he became cooperative, he even promised to handle it, personally.  We sat around glancing at each other, uncomfortably.  We’d seen Wilson angry a few times, but never like this….”

“….Thinking Wilson was still on the radio, Jim observed to Hogan and me, in a lowered voice not expecting to be overheard. “Ever notice the way black officers talk so respectful to their superiors, callin ‘em ‘Sir’ and all that other army kissin’ up bullshit?  I think they are a bunch of ‘Uncle Tom’s….”

“….The three of us snickered then felt embarrassed when we realized Paul and Uncle were also laughing along with Jim’s words.  After the awkwardness, all five of us relaxed.  Everyone laughed.  Only the four of us ever used the nickname to refer to him.  It tied us together.  We were his men, and we guarded his nickname, jealously.  Naturally, we never used it with him directly, but he was aware we referred to him as ‘Uncle’.  We were his team, and that made us special as far as we were concerned, and that was enough.  He was not only our CO; he was our battle leader, a man we trusted with everything.  In spite of the hardness and anarchy in us, we respected him enormously, and wanted him to respect us, in turn….”

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