MEET THE HEROES…READ THE STORY!
I had been working on a scene where paratroopers came in to support the Purple Foxes United mission involving POW/MIA’s. I had always envisioned the first stick to be legendary WWII, 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagle” paratroopers. My heart was set to have Tom Rice at the door as he did on D-Day.
I wanted to make certain all the legendary WWII paratroopers were included starting with the ones I knew and loved, admired and trusted; Vincent J. Speranza, Dan McBride, Tom Rice, and eventually Bob Noody, Joe Reilly, Huff Huffstetler and so on.
The second stick was to be the proceeding era of Vietnam, Korea and present day paratroopers and parachutists that had served; Airborne Demonstration Team, Original U.S. Army Golden Knight, Jerry Bourquin, former Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander, Colonel Alan Boyer, United States Army Special Forces Colonel Raymond Steeley, prior Marines; Colonel John Bates and Master Sergeant Jon Tehan, 101st Airborne Brigade Tiger Force; Jumpmaster Will Wilson, David Dever, Bill Crook and “Dink” Dinkle.
These great men were included as my way of thanking them for their selfless service and dedication to our country. I allowed a few spaces for anyone of significance I may have unintentionally missed. It was a very selective process. In fact, at the time, I was writing in “Battle of the Bulge,” Vincent J. Speranza and I wanted to make sure those chosen to be highlighted were noteworthy to jump on the same mission and out of the same aircraft as my favored WWII veterans. Fictionally speaking of course.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next...
PING! I received a message via Facebook Messenger. I didn’t recognize the name. It read:
“Thank you so much for accepting my friendship.... I'm so honored to meet you.... I noticed that you were with 101st..... My son is 82nd.... He passed away January 21st 2020 in his barrack room at Fort Bragg.... We're still waiting for answers but.... I remember when he was at Fort Benning graduating from Airborne School I picked up 101st Airborne shirt which I know is now air assault according to my son. The significance behind this is that my husband's Indian family is the Osage. Their clan is the eagle clan. When I went to Fort Benning to watch Caleb graduate and I picked up this 101st Airborne shirt Caleb reminded me that wasn't his to wear. But I had to get the shirt anyway just because of the significance of the eagle clan. I bought one for each member of my family with pride. Fast forward to Caleb passing away and discovering that the little time that Caleb was at Fort Bragg he was part of the Eagle Battalion.
I will forever wear 101st Airborne and his battalion crest in honor of him and his memory. Thank you for your service sir. You're the first 101st I've met. Caleb was 19 and he loves jumping out of airplanes. He was standby. I feel like he got his promotion at his deployment that he wanted. Caleb spoke to me every day about his plans to be a Ranger. In fact, they were putting him in the Ranger program. He was willing to do anything Special Forces. Anyway, I believe he would have been a Command Sergeant Major at least that’s what he aspired to be one day.”
Obviously the message was not meant for me and before I responded, I tracked down a recent Facebook post that the sender, Caleb’s mom, Heather had liked. The post was none other than WWII “Screaming Eagle,” Vincent J. Speranza reading his paratrooper lament he had written and read while we were with the United States Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, GA. So, I responded to let her know I was glad she reached out and that I was very sorry for her tremendous loss, but that I was not Vincent J. Speranza. I reassured her that I would let Vincent know and that I believed he would be grateful for her reach out and would want to personally thank her for her son’s service. I invited her to the “Screaming Eagles” week, confident that I would find a way to introduce her to Vince. We went back and forth about who we were and what we did, both glad we connected with each other in the most interesting way.
I found out Heather was an art teacher trying to find assignments to keep her students engaged during the isolation of COVID and then it struck me, perhaps her students could get involved with the project I’m working on called Purple Foxes United. I explained that it’s a Super Hero Military project involving veterans from all wars and all services and next year we were on track for a graphic novel to be published. I had already recruited veteran artists Ruben Chato, Richard De Rosset and recently Tom Anderson and Karla Nemitz to participate in a collaborative effort to create the graphic novel, knowing many more would eventually support. The proceeds would benefit the participating veteran artists and Honor Flight San Diego along with many other worthy veteran organizations. The artist would have to commit to giving their “original” art piece for an auction to be held next year in conjunction with Comic Con. Great, she was all in and enthusiastic to take part!
Apparently God and Caleb had other plans that were far more magnificent…
She sent me a sample of her student, Isaiah Hunter’s recent artwork (displayed on this page) that he gave to her after Caleb’s passing. Something she held very dear to her heart. It was Caleb in uniform with his massive angel wings. At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
WOW! WOW! WOW! God is amazing. Truly amazing. For those of you who haven’t read the story, the WOW! might not make much sense at this time. I knew right then and there, our meeting and that note meant for Vince was absolutely without question, Divine Intervention. I was STUNNED. I must admit that in my lifetime I have witnessed many miracles, but I was STUNNED at his magnificence.
How could it be that as I was focused on writing the very scene Vincent J. Speranza was highlighted in, a woman whom I have never met was reaching out to that very “Screaming Eagle” being written into the scene?
My heart knew instantly that Caleb was meant to be in that paratrooper scene. I wrote him in as the last man (in spirit) on the stick, described as a member of the Creator’s Angel Forces. He would be seated with Vincent J. Speranza and all the “Screaming Eagles” mentioned.
My heart knew it was destined, for it was envisioned long before the completion of the first volume of Purple Foxes United.
We, myself and Artisan Jay Stargaard, whom created the steel wings of the lead character, LT Williams, had always envisioned an Angel Force in the following volumes.
Now, how was I going to explain all of this to a grieving mother?
I carefully asked permission to honor Caleb in that scene. However, I wanted Heather to read the story first and to understand why I was asking, to reassure her that our interaction was all predestined and part of God’s plan. At least that’s what I felt and believed to be true. I knew it would be a tough read for her, very relative to what she is and will be going through the rest of her days here on this earth. She agreed to read it and then enthusiastically gave me permission to honor her son’s memory.
Heather is an amazing person, an amazing mother. A courageous believer, accepting of all things through her faith and God's grace. She lost her life, her son and still she reached out to someone that could perhaps understand, someone connected to the “Screaming Eagle,” which is a significant symbol in her husband’s legacy, the Osage people and also, Caleb’s affiliation with the Eagle Battalion while at Fort Bragg.
Although there are no words or deed that can amend Caleb’s loss, I am honored to have the memory of Caleb on the stick with the bravest of men, our paratroopers. More so, I am humbled to witness the faith and belief that Heather has in Caleb to continue to do great things in the name of our Creator and that even in his death of human form, she trusts he is a part of God’s unstoppable Force, his Army of Angels....Angel Forces All The Way! AMEN
“Death cannot keep my love from you… for I am yours forevermore.”
P U R P L E F O X E S U N I T E D