Monday, November 29, 2010

War clouds rekindle vet's bad memories

A miserable country.

I'll never forget Bill Field's words.

He was talking about Korea of 60 year ago.

I'd done a piece on the East Hampton, N.Y., native and American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 commandant in July 1999 for the 46th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

A miserable country.

I'm reminded of Field's words because of escalating tensions on that peninsula after North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last Tuesday, killing four South Koreans.

That follows the unresolved torpedoing of a South Korean warship killing 46 sailors last March.

North Korea's belligerence may have pushed its neighbor too far this time.

Will Uncle Sam, who dispatched a carrier battle group for joint exercises with South Korea as a show of force, be dragged into another Korean conflict?

The first was enough for Bill Field.

The day after he got his high school diploma in June 1950, 135,000 Communist North Korean troops invaded South Korea. Three months later, he was there with the First Cavalry Division, fighting in a war that lasted a little more than three years. It was a bitter struggle.

"One-hundred twenty degrees in the shade in summertime and 30 below in wintertime," he said in the story. "From April to June it rained every day. From September to November it snowed. Mud up to your ankles. Sitting in foxholes with water up to here. Sitting under two GI blankets on top of a mountain in 30 below. You couldn't dig a hole because the ground was frozen. No trees, no nothing. If there was any beauty to that land, I never saw it."

Field saw enough bloodshed.

Late in October 1950, he was with U.N. forces who had pushed deep into North Korea and reached within 20 miles of the Yalu River separating North Korea from Manchuria. Then 300,000 Communist Chinese troops began charging across the border, driving the Allies back into South Korea. Both sides dug in along a line north of the 38th parallel as truce talks began in July 1951. The war would drag on for two more years as both sides fought for strategic pieces of territory to be used like chips at the bargaining table.

"We'd take a place, the Chinese overran it, then we'd retake it," said Field, who was wounded by mortar shrapnel. "It was bloody and nothing was ever resolved."

An armistice agreement was signed July 27,1953, but not before 53,000 Americans were dead.

"It's an experience you live through once," Field said. "There are a lot of ideals you have as a young boy that you don't have after you've been through combat and you see your best buddy get killed.

"I was 19, but I felt like an old man."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Don't dig Christmas decorating? Let Watsons do it

Some folks enjoy decorating the Christmas tree.

Some don’t.

My wife is one of the former.

Sherri loves it.

As for yours truly, Christmas decorating was never my bag all those years of bachelorhood until we met.

Then she got me a little tree.

A Santa Claus with a Hawaiian shirt, too.

You might say I came to see the lights.

So any day now when she asks me to help get the Christmas decorations down from the attic, I’m there.

Or I could say, hey, let’s call Stanley Watson.


Christmas decorating is his business.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

'Yes, We Can Dance!' twinbill Feb. 12, 2011

If you’re a fan of Manatee County school dance teams, mark Feb. 12, 2011 on your calendar.

That’s the third annual “Yes, We Can Dance!” extravaganza at Neel Auditorium.

It will be twice the fun.

After packing Braden River High’s auditorium in its 2009 debut, the show was moved to Neel last winter — to another turnaway crowd.

So this time there will be two shows: 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

By the way, program coordinator Helen Dolbec needs sponsors for this entertaining program, a stage for our county’s impressive dance talent.

Call (941) 792-8274. Or e-mail:

Read more in Friday's Vin's People.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How my in-laws got a new mailbox

How are you going to spend Thanksgiving Day morning?

Mine will have nothing to do with helping out with the turkey.

More like being one.

Try putting in a mailbox.

My mother-and-father-in-law's mailbox.

Jim and Sue Manring arrived home from their cruise Tuesday night and my wife was there, too.

So after work, I drove to our house, changed clothes and went over to see them.

It was dark when I got there and pulled up to the front of the Manring house.

Or tried to.

Unfortunately, I got too close to their mailbox with my right rearview mirror when I drove up and ...


I looked back and the mailbox was hanging over on its broken wooden post.


I got out and tried to shove it back together, but no use.

So I picked up the mailbox, still attached to the post's broken top part, tucked it under my right arm, walked up to the front door, knocked and went inside.

You should've seen how their smiles turned to ... what are you doing with that mailbox?

Uh, I had an accident.

Then everybody started laughing.

The sight of somebody's son-in-law waltzing into their living room carrying their mailbox must be a funny sight.

That is, if your in-laws have a sense of humor like mine do.

Hey, they let me marry their daughter.

Anyway, Jim said he would make a trip to Home Depot in the morning.

"We needed a new mailbox anyway," Sue said.

And yours truly will spend Thanksgiving Day morning helping my father-in-law put in that mailbox.

Monday, November 22, 2010

'That's the miracle of Thanksgiving ...'

People began lining up before dawn.

"Five a.m.," said Barbara Parker, a longtime St. Joseph Catholic Church volunteer, taking a break from packing grocery bags at the church's Food Pantry Monday.

They were needy folks, looking for a bagful of holiday cheer for Thanksgiving.

Some came alone.

Some came with children.

Some came for others physically unable to make it.

They left with a little something -- mix for stuffing and mashed potatoes, canned fruit and vegetables, a gift certificate towards a ham or turkey, bread and rolls.

All of it came from a community that shares its blessings with the less-than-fortunate.

Parker and a team of volunteers were out back, sorting through dry goods, loading them into bags for other volunteers inside the pantry to distribute to needy people.

They'd been at it since 8:30 a.m. and it was getting on toward noon.

It would be the same Tuesday and Wednesday and more than 2,000 people would receive Thanksgiving bags by then.

"We always seem to have enough food. How does that happen?" Parker said. "We were about to run out of bread and a truckful shows up. Go figure. That's the miracle of Thanksgiving."

"We were running out of break and a truckload suddenly shows up. Go figure. That's the miracle of Thanksgiving."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Staying home for Thanksgiving? Be glad

Flying somewhere for Thanksgiving?

Have fun.

Especially when you go through airport security.

You may be one of those lucky travelers who experiences the Transportation Security Administration’s new up-close-and-personal procedures.

Sounds like the TSA has adopted the old AT&T slogan:

“Reach out and touch someone.”

Only folks have objected rather strenuously to the TSA’s new intrusive pat-down policy.

Pilots are among them.

Which would be a drag if you happen to be on that pilot’s plane.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Feisty Flamingos" finish Breast Cancer Walk

The “Feisty Flamingos” finished the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk in Tampa during Halloween. They are Darcy Arnold, Tina and Natasha Barrios, Jenny Bell, Cheryl Brady, Allison Butler, Cindy Kuhns, Lorie Starkweather and Cari Walz. Big ups from Von Ryan, Rylee Kuhns, Susan, John and Mya Johnson and Dale and Ann Dobbs.

Nolan Middle’s Lauren Strimer made the Florida Music Educator Association’s all-state mixed 7th-and-8th grade chorus. She’ll perform with them Jan. 15 at the FMEA convention.

Robert and Barbara Howard are wed 41 years. Cheers from Ron, Cherie, Shane and Nate.

Former DeSoto Queen Natalie Lopez plays Charity in the University of Tampa production, “Sweet Charity,” at UT’s David Falk Theatre at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Read more in Friday's Vin's People

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Dagger jumper makes uncle proud

STUART --- The tears were running down my face.

The 2010 Stuart Air Show's opening ceremony Sunday was under way.

High above, two jumpers from the Black Daggers, the U.S. Army's Special Operations
Command Parachute Demonstration Team, were slowly spiraling toward the ground from 5,000 feet as a young woman sang our national anthem.

One of the jumpers held the American flag, streaming in the wind as they descended.

It was my nephew, Kevin Haddon.

What a moment.

As the air show narrator announced his name, people around us clapped politely.

Not us.

Me, my wife Sherri and our niece Lauren Pierce cheered like crazy.

Then I ran around telling everyone within earshot, "THAT'S MY NEPHEW! THAT'S MY NEPHEW!"

I was one proud uncle.

I remembered the first time I'd flown out to Oregon in the mid-1980s to see my sister, Maureen, and her husband, Rob. When I got off the plane, there was Kevin, a shy little boy hiding behind my sister, clinging to her leg.

There he was Sunday, a 28-year-old member of  the elite Black Daggers.

He's been with Army Special Forces for about seven years and made more than 1,500 jumps.

Sunday's were the first I'd seen.

Kevin had called us Saturday by surprise, saying he had VIP tickets for us if we could make it.

We practically flew Sunday morning, getting to Stuart in plenty of time.

The air show itself was a blast, what with military jet fighters roaring overhead, stunt planes doing aerobatics flying around, and cool exhibits on the ground. They not only had one vintage World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber, but two of them!

Still, Kevin and his comrades were the No. 1 attraction for us.

Later on, they jumped from 8,000 feet, free-falling for most of it before popping their chutes.

I asked Kevin what going 100 mph straight down felt like?

"Windy," he said.

Spoken like a Mannix.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pain Truth about prescription drug abuse

The Pain Truth.

Would people rather hear it from Dr. Lora Brown?

Or from Dr. Russell Vega?

When the topic is prescription drug abuse, it’s something for Lakewood Ranch High School students to consider seriously.

Other county high school and middle school students, too.

All of us, actually.

Brown is an intervention pain management specialist locally and on the governor’s task force on prescription drug abuse. She addressed LRHS students last Tuesday about the dilemma as part of a state and national education campaign.

It is a huge problem, she told them.

A huge problem in Bradenton.

A huge problem in Manatee County.

A huge problem in their school — and other schools.

It is an epidemic, Brown said.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas gift cards? Now we're talking!

Another sign the holidays are nigh?

An overabundance of e-mails about bargains.

Like the one I received Wednesday about gift cards.

The National Retail Federation says they're the most popular present and the average person purchases 3.6 gift cards during the holidays.

That got my attention.

You will never guess the five most popular gift cards in Florida, either, according to

Victoria's Secret? Not even in the top three.

Disney World? That's behind Victoria's Secret.

They are:

1) Lowe's

2) Walmart

3) Home Depot

4) Victoria' Secret

5) Disney

Since we shop quite a bit at Nos. 1-2-3 anyway, something tells me we'll be scoring some gift cards at each of those stores early and beat the Christmas rush.

Cardpool's top 5 gift cards in Florida are:

1) Lowe's

2) Walmart

3) Home Depot

4) Victoria' Secret

5) Disney

Monday, November 8, 2010

High school reunions not for everybody

My wife's Bayshore High School alumni reunion is Dec. 4.

It's fun listening to her and her sister, Chris, another Bayshore alum, go down the on-line list of RSVPs to see how many people they know.

With the classes of 1976 through 1983 included, that's a lot of people.

Sherri hasn't decided whether to go.

Ditto for her sister.

Me? I've never been to any of my reunions at DePaul H.S. in Wayne, N.J., from where I graduated in 1967.

I hadn't intended for it to be that way.

It's just that so many friends of mine over the years had gone to their reunions and found them to be depressing.

That helped change my mind.

I decided I wanted to remember my friends and classmates from back then just as we were.

Forever young.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A reminder 'Greatest Generation' leaving us

He was there by himself usually on Saturday or Sunday mornings, driving his handicap scooter along the aisles at the Publix where we shop.

I don’t know his name, but he always wears a Navy blue ballcap with “World War II Veteran” stitched across the crown in gold letters above the silhouette and name of the warship he served on long ago.

I’d make eye contact, greet him with a smile and give him the right of way in the aisle.

But I haven’t seen him lately.

With Veterans Day Thursday, I’m hoping I see him again. Soon.

If it’s not already too late.

The “Greatest Generation” is leaving us.

Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Florida-Georgia? World Series? Fight night!

We've all seen movies where the poker game gets busted up because one player accuses another of cheating, they pull guns and blaze away.

How about over a college football game?

Not the gunfire, understand, but the same macho stand down.

It happened last Saturday evening in Brighton.

Sherri, her parents and I had made our monthly trek to the Seminole Casino.

After losing my personal limit ($20), I wasn't feeling the mojo and went to the bar to watch college football.

About the time Florida-Georgia kicked off, I had company and we went through all the emotional ups and downs, hooting and hollering watching that wild game.

Then as the overtime got under way, it happened.

One of the casino staffer's took the remote --- and turned on the World Series game!

Several of us reacted as you might imagine: WHAAAAAAAAAAT!!!

Two poker players at the table behind us took it beyond that.

Almost, that is.

One of them wanted to keep the Florida-Georgia game on TV.

The other guy wanted the World Series game.

They sat at opposite ends of the poker table.

One jumped up, then the second, loudly challenging each other to "C'MON OVER HERE AND DO SOMETHIN' 'BOUT IT!"

It was going to be Duke City and I had a ringside seat.

But casino staff quickly intervened, telling the antagonists to calm down and reassuring everyone they'd turn the Florida-Georgia game back on.

Which they did.

Good move.

It's one thing to take our money.

When you take our football game, too?

Them's fightin' words.

Or something like that.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A little "Trick or Treat" courtesy goes long way

Trick or treating by neighbhorhood kids has always been a fun time.

I like to see what ghosts and goblins show up at the door on Halloween.

But it didn't start right Sunday night.

Sherri had prepared a bowl of candy and stationed it handily by the door.

When the door bell rang, signaling the arrival of the first trick-or-treaters, I took it.

There were four or five little girls, none in costume.

No "Trick or Treat," either.

They just stuck their bags out.

Still, I dropped a candy into each bag.

Didn't get as much as a "Thank you."

They turned to walk away, their mothers watching wordlessly from the sidewalk.

I wasn't about to let this slide.

"YOU'RE WELCOME!" I called out.

That got their attention.

"Thaaank youuu," they responded finally.

That went for their mothers, too.

I was steamed.

A little courtesy always goes a long way with me.

The  next trick or treater found out.

It was a boy in an Ironman costume, mask, suit, the whole whole nine.

I dropped a couple of candies into his bag.

"Thank you," he said and turned to leave.

"C'mon back, pal," I called after him.

I dropped a few more candies into his bag, thanked him, and bade him good night.

Every trick or treater after that was equally courteous to the last one.

Halloween ended up much better than it began.

Every child who came to our door afterward was different, thankfully.

Each said "Thank you."