Author Q&A Part 1

One of the usual comments we hear about Single Harness goes a little something like this, “The book was fantastic, but it left me wanting more!” In fact virtually every person has a sentiment much like this when they read the book. So to briefly satisfy our curiosities and appetites for more, I (Gary) recently put some questions to our author, Millard Gregory, about the book from his very own unique perspective.

Me: At its core, what is this book about?

Millard: From the comments I’ve had from many who’ve read the book I may be the worst person to answer that question. To me it’s just a collection of things that happened over the years…combined with a few unique situations that only seem unique looking back. They seemed normal at the time.

Me: In your own mind, why did you write this book?

Millard: I didn’t think of it as a book at all, but there were 2 reasons I wrote it: First. and I included this in the book: one night late last year I went to bed just after 3am and my wife put her arm over me and this cat who’s life she saved 2 or 3 years before climbed up on my side and laid down on me…purring. The contrast of that moment at 68 years old and the 24 years from 1966 to 1990 was inescapable and I sat up and wrote what had happened on the back of a Speedway gas receipt I still have; and Second: looking at that receipt the next day I thought of my old Colonel…now in his 80s and retired for years…and for some reason thought that although he knew the details of our missions out of the country I might be able to surprise him with a few things we did back here. The surprise was that he wasn’t too surprised at all.It only became a book after a few close friends read the manuscript and they all said I had to publish it.

Me: If you got to choose what people took away from the book, what would it be?

Millard: Everyone seems to focus on a different story or sentence and the great honor is hearing what that part meant to them and why. Although it wasn’t planned, if it helps people re-remember the interesting things they’ve done that are easy to forget as our lives move on…that would be the best.

Me: “Single Harness”, the title of the book, is not a phrase often seen. What was your rationale behind this title?

Millard: It was one of those things you hear at a particular moment and never forget. In my case it was at the end of my recruiting meeting with the Top Sergeant and the Captain who said they “Didn’t think I’d pull good in double harness” and that they had a different path for me to consider. That did change everything, and looking back made “Single Harness” seem like a good title.

Me: Over your lifetime you have had astounding, almost unbelievable success in so many of your endeavors. What is your secret?

Millard: There is no secret, and it’s the same for most everyone when they think about it: from my parents, to the short time I got to spend with my Grandfather, to my Grandmother who worked in her garden etc up to 96, to the family friend who filled out an employment form listing my age as 2 years older than I was at the time which got me an adult summer job while still in high school and the money to go to college, to the Top Sergeant who asked me to come back, to the true gentleman who hired me to travel a territory, to the acquaintance who invited me to the join the club in Palm Beach, to the friend with all the manufacturing experience who’d already joined my company when I decided to start a factory…and on and on. It’s the people we meet, and get to know, and learn from that make it all happen.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview next week!

Perfectly Anonymous

“It was back to that perfectly anonymous thing, and it was a concept never discussed but shared by us all. You’ve never heard of us. No one has.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

History books are filled with legends and heroes. Individuals who led with unparalleled valiancy, who performed feats of bravery, and who sacrificed in such a way as to never be forgotten. This category of person includes the likes of Abraham Lincoln, who in one of history’s great speeches said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” The irony of course was that the world did remember, and we remembered not just what they did, but what Lincoln did as well.

There are also other lesser known people like Meriwether Lewis, whose acts of stunning courage and fortitude in his march west, freed the heart of every explorer’s self made boundaries and showed them it was possible to do what they thought was nearly impossible.

Then there are the more “common” people. Like those found on the airplane bound for the heart of our nation one September day who decided, at great cost to themselves, that they could not bear evil destroying the thing they obviously loved.

Because of their extraordinary acts, these people have earned themselves sentences, paragraphs, and even pages in the hallowed history books of the world. And to these rarified humans, history rightfully pays special homage.

And yet, there exists another category of people. A category that is never spoken of, lauded, or memorialized simply because no one ever knew.  Anonymous people who do great acts on the level of a true “hero”, are the most mysterious and oddly satisfying kind of people. To be sure history requires both- the person who is memorialized and the one who is not. But the funny thing about those who are not, is that almost every time they meant it to be that way. In fact, in a world that technology has made increasingly small, everyone knows culture’s valiant few. Yet for the anonymous, their names will never grace a news report or find their way into the living room of the average family. But all the while there is something quite stunning and refreshing about this. That there are those among us who commit praiseworthy acts of varying degrees with zero expectation of reward, celebration, or glory. That somehow their intention was simply to do good. The anonymous hero speaks to the deeper nobility, the more significant truth inside us all.

So to those among us who have been the heroes that history will never know, we thank you and express the deepest amount of gratitude possible for not just being a hero, but being a hero who remained anonymous. Whose concern in those golden moments, was not for themselves but for those they came to help.

A Walk in the Woods

“…up the hill and back into those deep woods no one visits even today.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

The Woods

The woods can be a mysterious and almost mythical place for those who pay attention. There is something about the cacophony of insect sounds, the smell of leaves both wet and fresh, and the feeling of being in a place much bigger than yourself. It’s a place that demands your attention- lest you catch your foot on the upended root. But it’s also a place that pulls you away. Away from the smaller and less significant things of life. It’s one of the few places left in the world that seems almost untouched by the world.

If you have the occasion to be alone on your walk in the woods, you will be struck by a most unfamiliar thing- silence. And it will be there in that silence, amidst the uneven ground and humid air, that your mind will begin to work in a different way. CS Lewis said, “The process of living seems to consist in coming to realize truths so ancient and simple that, if stated, sound like barren platitudes.” One would wonder how many of these truths, “so ancient and simple” are discovered in the quietness of places very much like the woods.

The Woods 2 But on your quiet walk through the woods you are likely to be confronted by another quality that is sometimes misunderstood- solitude. Often we run from this. Seeking to fill the quietness and aloneness with something- anything really. But it’s only in solitude where one can hear enough and see enough to find the most meaningful of life’s truths. Ralph Waldo Emerson viewed it as something to attain when he said, “..but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Perhaps it is an acquired taste, to roam the forest and listen only to your thoughts, to push the brush aside and silently wonder what is over the next rise. Perhaps you are convinced that life’s more important questions can’t be found in the silence, that solitude is only for a few. But if the answers ultimately elude you and the noise is too much to bear, you might find your way down some long winding road where you’ll park your car to the side and journey into the woods. And from time to time you may encounter a fellow walker. While your politeness may demand something more, it’s best in these moments to give a knowing look and silently pass to the right.

Coming Home

“…my step Granddad survived the Bataan Death March and never quite came back…everyone called it “shell shocked” back then.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

There has always been a unique fascination with the phrase, “fog of war.” First coined by military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, the term has found its way into pop culture. And though it is legitimately experienced by only a few, all instinctively understand it. In fact, one can see it practically portrayed in many a war scene from the comfort of their own home. But for those who know it more intimately, they know it all too well.

“War”, according to Robert McNamara, “…is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend.” The awfulness of many a war is truly incomprehensible. And if the “fog of war” is difficult to bear in war, then how much more difficult is the aftermath of the incomprehensible when all is done, the air is still, and nothing but the sound of quietness is heard. The psychological aftermath of war has the ability to inextricably strip the mind bare and leave the soldier always searching for something he cannot find. Many an American warrior has come home only to never find it the same again. As the song in Les Miserables so eloquently and painfully exclaims, “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain that goes on and on.”

In our modern era we have put a medical diagnosis to this post war “shell shock.” Doctors call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Though the PTSD diagnosis is used for other traumatic events beside war, it was first recognized in the war veteran. PTSD is of course nothing new. Soldiers have long dealt with the emptiness that comes from the post war quietness. It is just simply a new label. But at the same time, it serves as a reminder. A reminder that the cost to our warriors reaches far beyond the battlefield and into their homes, relationships, and other areas of life. Of course this is not to say that all soldiers come home with massive phycological wounds. Because they don’t. But for more mysterious reasons some struggle more than others. But the point is this- every soldier that comes home, brings with them more than they took. And they will deal with those things for the entirety of their lives. Let us be careful to take care of those (and their families) who have sacrificed so much so that we ultimately could be free.

As we wrap up 2 wars and seemingly start another, times of relative peace seem far off. And our warriors likely will once again be called upon to right the world. But as they come home, let us be sure and help them. Help them find the home they left so we wouldn’t have to.

ISIS and the Innocents

“What we always knew that they didn’t…because of the torture we’d seen committed on the most defenseless people by those with all the power…was that if we did our job we could be the answer to the victims’ prayers and those of the victims parents and children.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

Half a world away, the terror organization ISIS dominates parts of Iraq and Syria with an unthinkably cruel grip. Behind our borders we see the awful videos of the coward in black who holds a stained blade to the throats of innocent people. We hear reports of unspeakable atrocities of not just men, but women and children as well. These things come upon our more reformed senses with a shock that is foreign and difficult to place in the reality that exists outside of our flat screen tvs and twitter accounts. But there it is, confronting us at every turn.

While the cruelty of ISIS should not be downplayed, they are hardly the first “cause” that has gone roughly beyond human imagination in their cruelty toward humanity. Every century, every generation has their “ISIS” to contend with. Whether it’s a Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, a Chemical Ali and Iraq, or even a Hitler and the Nazis, every one of these innumerable world-sized acts of evil (shrouded in a “cause”) is simply a justification to kill innocent people. People who could not hope to possibly defend themselves against such evil.

Whether we choose to ignore it or not, the world is often an evil place. Humans have the amazing capacity to love. Yet they also retain the terribly astounding ability to commit great evil. Gone unchecked and without the rule of law (and its consequences), evil makes itself a paradise where it is the ruler. Behind it’s borders, their power and their foolish perspective would grow until the world could not ignore them, even if they tried.

It was in the well known quote that is often attributed to Edmund Burke where he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s difficult for a truer statement to be made. ISIS, for instance, will not simply lay down their knives and apologize to the world. They are an evil that must be eradicated because of what they have done and what they will continue to do. But the more difficult determination is this: who are the good men who will stand and fight the evil? America is once again poised to lead against the triumph of evil.

As a people we must not be tempted to turn our eyes from those who are defenseless. We must always be willing, if necessary, to fight in the open or in the shadows for those who cannot fight for themselves. Because sometimes, we are the answers to their prayers.