A Tribute to a Friend … America’s #1 Hero Warrior!!

Preface: This blog became necessary when, durin’ a recent conversation, I happened to mention the name of one of our BFF’s (for both the wife and me)– Admiral James Bond Stockdale!!  This other individual acknowledged recognizin’ the name — he began to laugh!!  He had remembered watchin’ a Vice Presidential TV debate – it was in the early fall of 1992.  And that is the problem — that debate and Jim’s participation — it’s only a “pimple” — a minute item — in the life and history surroundin’ our friend Jim Stockdale.  But read on — if you care to understand — why I turn “purple” — when someone reacts to Jim’s name in the aforementioned manner!!

It is a very, very, very distinct honor and a tremendous privilege that I blog, today, about my friend, my classmate, my “bro” — maybe, the most honorable hero that our country has ever known — James Bond Stockdale! Let’s go back a few — maybe 74 years (to be exact) — when I was a spankin’ new ‘green, but bubbly’ plebe (freshman, to ya landlubbers) at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.  It was the early summer of 1943!  I would be assigned later to live on the “swabo deck” (first floor) in the 2nd wing of Bancroft Hall — home to all midshipmen! I was assigned to the 6th company (there were 20 companies and 4 battalions when I first arrived at the Academy [just in passin’ — later, for our first class or senior year, our military structure had changed to 6 battalions and 24 companies — and I was a member of the 8th company — I just put that tid-bit in this blog to show that the Academy was always ready for change — and confuse us midshipmen??]).  At the academy, you attended all classes with your company-mates. But we participated in some events as a Battalion also. So durin’ plebe year, companies #6 thru #10, were all members of the 2nd Batallion.  And thus, we did get to know our classmates in the other companies in our battalion, and particularly, we made lots of friends  durin’ Plebe summer!!

Durin’ that summer (1943), it was an introduction period for us “newbies” — the Class of ’47 plebes — we had sessions in seamanship — sailing on the Severn River (learnin’ the navy jargon for leavin’ the dock, steerin’ the boat, and dockin’ at the pier {without crashin’}. We even tried to learn how to tie seaman’s knots (the rope kind, not the water-speed-measurement kind). We participated in lots of sports together — the point I’m tryin’ to make here is that durin’ that first summer — we got to know all the plebes in our battalion.  It was not until the fall of ’43 — that we would begin to spend time solely with our “company-mates” — the sixth company, in my case.  It was that summer — durin’ our plebe year — that I had befriended — Jim Stockdale.  Since Jim was in the 8th Company, and we lived in the same area of Bancroft Hall, we would pass each other on occasion (but plebes had to keep “their eyes in the boat” — always lookin’ straight ahead).  Durin’ what little free time a plebe has, Jim and I did not get to know each other well — but it was easy to remember each other’s names — our last name was stenciled in very large black letters across our white jumpers — that’s all we wore in the summer and early fall. My point is, Jim and I knew each other but did not spend a great deal of time together at the academy. I knew him as “Stockdale” and he knew me as “Meis” — my nickname at the academy — which holds true to this very day — I sign my emails as “Meis” when communicatin’ with my classmates. [aside: Post-academy, besides Jim, there have been about 5 or 6 very close friends that the wife and I have had contact with durin’ our lives — not necessarily roommates — but they were the ones I later served with — or those whose paths we crossed in civilian life!]  James Bond Stockdale fell into the latter category — in the late 90’s, the Stockdales and the Meisels began to spend some fun times together!! I have written about our doin’s with Jim and his wife Sybil in an earlier blog!  I urge you to read same!! You must understand — I consider Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale to be one of the bravest human beings that our country has ever produced.! period. exclamation point! (And wife Sybil is not far behind!!)

Back to 1992 and the political race!! Ross Perot was runnin’ a heckuva race for the presidency of these United States. His opponents were the sittin’ president — ‘daddy Bush’ — Geo H.W. Bush — and an upstart from Hope, Arkansas  — William Jefferson Clinton!! When Perot entered the race he needed someone to be his runnin’ mate — that would seem normal. A guy runnin’ to be pAresident of our country has to have a runnin’ mate!! So, as related to me by Sybil, Jim’s wife — Ross called Jim and asked him to fill in as his runnin’ mate (temporarily) — he, Perot, would pick a permanent VP runnin’ mate after he was able to cull his list of possibilities — yes, he had a list, but just couldn’t pick the right guy yet — and (Perot knew that)  James Bond Stockdale had a bio that would put any other person’s to shame!! Just “google” James Bond Stockdale and feast your eyes on the man that endured the absolute worst torture that anyone has ever endured — and did not break!! [aside: I am not includin’ the things that are goin’ on today — with the beheadin’s and such — but, these are not military captives — they are true heroes, and it should not be happenin’!!] I’ll only mention what I recall from my conversations with Sybil Stockdale about Jim in captivity.  When the Vietnamese were goin’ to place Jim in front of TV cameras — as one of the highest rankin’ U.S. military officers in their prison — known as the “Hanoi Hilton” — to show how humane they were in treatin’ the prisoners — Jim took a stool in his cell and smashed it against his head — crackin’ it open– makin’ it a bloody mess — therefore,  no, TV!! — on that day, nor for months followin’!  No, not ever, with Jim Stockdale!!  Jim was kept in solitary the whole time he remained a prisoner — 7 long and arduous years!

And a 2nd incident I want to pass along that came directly from Sybil — was at the moment of Jim’s bein’ set free — just before his complete release as a POW.  The Vietnamese head of the prison guards — the man who took pleasure in seein’ Jim tortured — entered Jim’s cell and shook his hand — tellin’ Jim he was the bravest man he had ever known.  WOW!!  Even if I didn’t get this exactly right — these two events happened — and if you have followed my advice and checked Admiral James Bond Stockdale on “google” — you will agree that he was an exceptional man, a husband, a father, an author, and an extremely brave military hero!! [aside: While googlin’, you might also check out Sybil Bailey Stockdale — she was quite a woman and patriot, too!] So, shrewd Ross Perot knew, even if it was only a temporary “stop-gap” measure — namin’ Jim as his runnin’ mate was a heckuva good idea. But, as fate would have it, sometime early in the  presidential campaign, Perot dropped out of the race.  Somehow, somewhere, there had been threats on his daughter — before, durin’ or after her weddin’ — details here are insignificant — point is that Perot dropped out of the race.

When Perot re-entered the race — he still had not selected a “permanent” runnin’ mate. And guess what, there was a debate scheduled for the vice presidential contenders.  Whether it was a day, a week, or a month after Perot had re-entered — Jim got a call to get on an airplane and perform as his runnin’ mate for the debate.  I am not aware of the details — I knew Jim from our past academy days — but, he came up with the best laugh durin’ the debate when — he asked the moderator to repeat the question — since his “hearin’ aid” was turned off — or somethin’ like that!!  The audience roared  — and the world saw an old man who should not be runnin’ for the vice presidency of the United States.  But you see, I think it was Jim tellin’ the world — look, I am an old guy, and I shouldn’t even be here!!

But, the public knew nothin’ of the comin’s and goin’s of Perot and his lack of pickin’ his “permanent” runnin’ mate.  Jim was left to dangle in wind.  As Sybil put it to me — all four of their sons and their families have never spoken a word to Perot after that ghastly affair. Jim had taken a “fall” for Ross Perot. But, to hear Sybil tell it — James Bond Stockdale never personally let Perot know how he felt.  That’s the guy Harriette and I befriended — it was in the late 1990’s when we ran into Jim and Sybil in Coronado, CA. That was their home; where they had raised their family. And, we were spendin’ a month, rentin’ an apartment on the 14th floor at the Coronado Shores Condos, overlookin’ the Pacific Ocean  (with the newbie Navy Seals doin’ their calisthenics on the beach below)!!

From that chance meeting on the street in Coronado, a true friendship developed among Jim and Sybil and the wife and me — we would meet annually on May 1st of each year at the Brigantine Restaurant (the Brig) on the main drag — and the four of us  would order those “horny handshakes” — the wonderful tequila specials with cracked ice in a metal container that we would shake up a bit — and occasionally spill (if you did not hold the top on securely) — as we tried to imitate the bartenders!!  The Brig was famous for those “deadly” concoctions.  Again, I refer you to that earlier blog — which has a more complete description of our relationship with the Stockdales. The two of them will always remain as our very favorite BFF’s!!  ‘nuf …..

Post Script: 2/4/17 – As I awoke this morning, I realized that I should add this addendum to my blog of yesterday.  Ross Perot was a “newbie” salesman in the same IBM office in downtown Dallas, when I joined the company in September 1959 as a marketin’ trainee. He had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1953.  You might agree with me, my life has been full of coincidences.  Ross was my senior at IBM by a year, and I had the same “big daddy” salesman, durin’ my first year, to guide my early beginnin’s at the company.  Our relationship was not exactly the “bro” type; but we were civil to each other. I do recall a couple of items worth mentionin’:  My sister-in-law Raye Ann Simon joined our Dallas  IBM office, a year after me — a spankin’ new graduate of Smith College. She worked as a systems engineer and operated under Ross’ tutelage.  She always appreciated Ross — when a customer employee made advances toward this very, very, very attractive young IBMer, Ross stepped in and set him straight!! (And the guy was one of the decision-makers at the customer’s firm!). 

A 2nd interestin’ fact is that a new manager was joinin’ our office from the west coast. Earlier, Harriette and I had met him and his wife socially thru a mutual acquaintance in IBM. So, when Harriette, with a close friend and office associate’s wife — Martha Gantt, decided to give a welcomin’ party for that manager’s wife, I got a call from Ross — his wife Margot should be a hostess too! (No grass ever grew under Ross’ feet!).  One last item, in closin’ this post script: When Perot introduced me for a presentation in front of our IBM marketin’ team, he did it in this way:  “Next on the program is a guy who our branch manager calls “Alec” — and he never uses his first name — it’s “SMART” — I think that establishes the relationship between this ‘ole guy’ and Ross Perot!! — again, ‘nuf …… 

Author: Emiel aka Emiliano Meisel

THIS BIO IS UPDATED CONTINUOUSLY, DON'T BE CONFUSED: April 2016 - I'm living in this "senior facility" with my wife of 65 years! Officially, it's known as Vintage Westwood. As for my bio: I'm over 91 years, caucasion, grew up in the Memphis "hood", graduated USNA at Annapolis, served on Destroyer USS-843, then MIT in Boston area, US Naval aviator, married Harriette, w/3 offspring, one living grandchild, lost one (that's a tear!), 10 years USN, 30 years an IBMer, 24 years 'devouring' Mexico in San Miguel de Allende, and now here in this "geriatric home for the aged" -some inhabitants are 'really' old. Now, I'm a "blogger" - and that almost sounds like a dirty word! A friend has suggested that the place where we live should be titled -- "Elders' Chateau" -- we like it - so that's what we want to call it! Some of these folks are really very, very old, though! So, it's Sept'16, still alive and kickin' and re-naming our facility for bloggin' purposes -- "Casa de los Ancianos del Norte" or CAN. Hope I don't confuse ya!! Update: 11/2/16 -- I am now 92 and on Nov 5th, the wife and I will be wed for 66 years!! The new name of the CAN is "The WATERMARK at Westwood Village" -- snazzy huh!! Will let you know if it works out -OK?? Stay tuned! Guess what? It ain't workin' out so good!! We're bein' EVICTED!!!! 1/12/17 Whoa!! Not yet!! We're an ornery bunch of very, very, very ole folks who are gonna do what we have to do!! (Not leave here!) 1/24/17-- Very Important Entry (VIE): Residents of the CAN live in a RESIDENTIAL HOTEL -- and that's 'g-d' fact! It's up to L.A. City Housing Commission. 2/14/17 Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved RH! Waitin' for City Housing Commission approval. 4/15/17 Watermark still has not furnished drawin's -- it'll probably end up in a "draw". We'll get to stay while they remodel -- that should be "interestin'"!! 6/10/17 It's June and exchangin' offers -- and Bet Tzedek, our pro-bono lawyers, just sent in a counter-proposal -- keepin' our fingers crossed!! On 6/13/17 Received word that the L.A.City Housing Commission decision that "947 Tiverton Ave" is now classified as a RESIDENTIAL HOTEL (Yippee!!) -- stay tuned, somethin's gotta give -- but NO EVICTION ever!! July 2017: Will see 10 inhabitants leave -- our number down to about forty, and the wife and I are stayin'!! 8/17-- Watermark is appealin' -- Bet Tzedek says "no prob"!! Our numbers are depleted -- some passin's and some leavin's -- and we are a bit below 30 -- but we are "'947'-strong!! 10/10/17--Well, it's happenin' -- they have distributed their THP -- and we don't like it. We're all appealin' and Bet Tzedek (God Bless 'em) is with us all the way! 10/23 Stay tuned!! Gonna send my blog in with my "appeal" -- hope he or she has a sense of humor!! 10/31 Happy Halloween!! We lost a guy yesterday -- he passed over to the other side -- he was hangin' in with the rest of us -- just wantin' a decent place to live -- with that loss, and 4 depatures next week -- our number will be reduced to 24 -- that's a good even number!! 11/10: Our official "appeal" will be heard on Nov 20th -- Bet Tzedek will present and others will follow -- my current blog is my "entry" for the appeal. God willin' & creeks don't rise -- we won't be "evicted"!! Keep on -- keepin' on! 11/18: Actually a pro-bono law firm (Manatt's C.J. Laffer, good guy!) will present, and so will the ole guy -- stay tuned!!11/20: Our team did damage to their THP -- it should be cast aside -- vamos a ver!! 12/01/17: On the day exactly one year after we were "evicted" (12/01/16) -- we were notified that our appeal to the "W" THP has been upheld! New THP?? 12/18 Yep!! Revised THP (withdrew Hilgard locaton) same-o, same-o for The Glendon apts. 1/1/18 Happy New Year --wasn't supposed to live so long. Appealin' 2nd THP. 1/13 From 121 to 16 with 3 leavin' soon -- we're down to 13 poor souls -- awaitin' a next move!! iOjala! 1/22/18 Well, we signed up for The Glendon -- move on March 1st -- we'll skip any catered meals and accept a meal stipend for the two of us. We'll just repeat what we did durin' the last years in Mexico (and when we lived in Paris with our dog) -- we'll just walk over to Starbucks or Coffee Bean and have our "petit cream w/croissant" for breakfast and have a late afternoon meal delivered!! Really, not a bad way to live after all -- so, thanks, Watermark!! Welcome to our new world!!

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