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Monday, December 14, 2015

"Just a Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 12-13

Just a Thought: Speaking with Bob Hope
by Steve Walker

With two more “Just a Thought” columns left this year on a three year run of my weekly column, I thought I would walk down memory lane once again. If you add the two previous years of my “Ask the Judge” column, I will complete five years in anticipating an additional 6th year in 2016.

In 1995 I was assigned for 17 days to cover the 50th Anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in 1945 in Hawaii as an Army Reservist Public Affairs Sergeant. The event drew thousands of WWII Veterans, celebrities and Americans who gathered in Hawaii for the remembrance.

As a Reservist who was assigned to the Pentagon in the Army Newspaper Branch for 12 years to include 1995, I worked 14 hour days during the three week long assignment as part of the support troops assigned to the task of assuring a successful celebration.

While it was a great opportunity to visit Hawaii and enjoy the surroundings of the beach, I assure you it was not a vacation. Although I saw the beach, I did not have time to enjoy it much less even walk along the beach! Appreciative that I was there, I worked harder and longer than on most of my Reserve tours over the years.

President Bill Clinton & then First Lady Hillary Clinton were present for the event. President Clinton officially laid the wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier after his speech to those present. Other well-known personalities also addressed the crowd at the wreath laying as well.

Immediately after the wreath laying, the President and First Lady mingled in the crowd. As part of the military media I was in close proximity to the President and other dignitaries. One of those dignitaries was Maxine Andrews, a member of the 1940s sister singing groups, the Andrew Sisters.

The three sisters, Patti, Laverne and Maxine also entertained troops during World War II with other entertainers to include Comedian Bob Hope. Patti Andrews the last survivor of the group passed away two years ago in her 90s.

I did have the privilege of personally meeting Maxine and actually hugged her at the time. I hugged her gently since she looked frail. She graciously told me, “thank you for not squeezing me. I have four broken ribs.” Boy was I relieved! I could have seriously injured her. Unfortunately she passed away three weeks after the event at the age of 79.

After the wreath laying ceremony there was a parade where comedian and icon Bob Hope served as Grand Marshall. As we were readying for the parade, Bob Hope was wandering around. Since I missed seeing him perform in Phu Bai, Vietnam when I was stationed there in 1970, I decided to walk up to him and shake his hand.

As he walked toward me I held out my hand and said, “Glad to meet you Mr. Hope.” He looked at me a little dazed and responded, “Which way do I go?” Being the smart mouth all my life, I responded, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road!” pointing in the distance. He smiled and said, “Thank You.”

A Colonel who was close by, grabbed my shoulder and said, “What did you just say to Bob Hope?” Stammering I repeated what I said. I quietly and quickly removed myself from the area.  While Bob Hope lived to be 100 years old, he was 94 at the time and suffering early stages of dementia.

I felt bad that once again my smart mouth that the nuns in grade school tried to curtail, landed me in trouble with higher ups again. But then I did get to shake hands with a legend who entertained troops during WWII, the Korean War and of course Vietnam.

Missing him the first time around, I was given a second chance 25 years later for a personal encounter with icon Bob Hope.

As always, what I write is Just a Thought.

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran, former Journalist and Justice of the Peace. 

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