Over the last few weeks, I've bumped into more than a few vets. Some are friends of mine but most are new acquaintences. Usually, I've been fortunate enough to buy them a few drinks.
At first, they downplay my attempt. But then, I tell them, "Those aren't from me. They're from Stuart Dahl." And then I proceed to tell them the story of TWA 847 and how Stuart Dahl wanted to buy them a drink...
On the 14th of June, 1985, Hezbollah terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847. Last year, I posted a nineteenth anniversary piece:
The flight, flying from Athens to Rome, was hijacked by Hezbollah thugs and redirected to Beriut. The Islamic jihadis searched the plane for Jewish passengers and US military servicemen. They found five US Navy Divers and one Army Reserve Major. All military men were savagely beaten and tortured.
One diver, Robert D. Stethem was chosen to be executed. The Hezbollah chief put his pistol up against the diver's temple, fired one bullet and dumped Stethem's body on the tarmac.
Stethem was murdered because he was an American Sailor. His memory lives on as the Navy Commissioned the USS Stethem - one of the most formidable ships in the world.
The Army Reserve Major's name was Kurt Carlson...
"One day, we were told we had to speak to a visitor from Hezbollah," Carlson recalled. "They took us into another room. There was a bunch of guys there. One was a short guy with a beard. He just looked at us. The Amal guys who were our guards kept close to us. I felt like they were trying to protect us. This guy started asking us questions. Where we're from, what unit. All of a sudden, he let loose with a tirade. He spoke some English. I remember that his eyes were like glass. You could feel the hate coming out of him. He started screaming about the Israelis, how they're supported by the U.S. The Israelis were so bad they wouldn't consent to Red Cross visits to the Shiite prisoners. He was just screaming.
"One of the divers, Stuart Dahl, answered him," Carlson went on. "He said, 'If you believe in the rights of prisoners, you'll let the Red Cross see us.' This guy, the one who was screaming, just about fell over. He didn't expect anyone to answer him...
In that post, I also left a message, "If anyone knows of Stuart Dahl's whereabouts, please send me an email. I'd like to buy that Sailor a bottle of scotch."
Stuart Dahl wrote me after awhile. He's a great guy who finished his very successful career in the Navy and has a true-blue American family with two sons and a son-in-law serving in the military and the other son-in-law is a deputy sheriff.
He doesn't need scotch. He gave up drinking. So, among other things, he asked me to buy some vets a drink for him. I think I'll keep doing that around this time every year to remember Robert Stethem and to honor Stuart Dahl and Kurt Carlson and the other hostages. Think about doing the same.
And, Stu, I'm going to bring a bottle of the good stuff with me the next time I hit the VA - probably in a few weeks