For the past four years during the Christmas season, I have written a column in remembrance of the many great and wonderful lessons I learned from my father, Ernest A. Emord (aka “Tommy Reardon”). I have done so in the hope that these stories, but a small sampling of the remarkable legacy he left, might inspire you to hearken the call of an earlier age, of, to paraphrase Lincoln, the better angels of our nature. A professional boxer from Brockton, Massachusetts, a career military man who served the United States armed forces for 32 years, and a humble man of great humor, wit, and devotion to his family and country, Ernest Emord lived a life set apart from the ordinary that touched the lives of many in remarkable ways. Here are a few more remarkable stories from the life of Ernie Emord.
Standing up for Kevin. When I was four years old, my father was stationed by the United States Air Force at RAF Alconbury in England. The small base community was close knit and many of the military dependents knew one another. The year was 1965 and racial strife was increasingly more pronounced in the states with some spill over in the base community. A boy my same age, Kevin, was the victim of insult because of he was Black. At age four, I did not understand why some of the boys would not play with Kevin and would call him names, so I asked my father about it. My father told me that Kevin was a wonderful kid, just like me, and that it was evil for others to ridicule him based on his color. “We come in all different shades, my son,” he said, “it’s what’s inside that counts.” My father also told me that the Air Force was a color blind service, telling me “we have one color in the Air Force, Air Force blue. We are all Americans and all brothers in arms. There is no place for discrimination here.”
One day at noon, I walked to Kevin’s house located near our quarters on the base. As I approached, I saw Kevin on his door step staring at kids across the street who were chanting racial slurs at him. At first I did not understand what they were saying because the words I had not heard spoken before, so I stood next to them in the line thinking that they might be playing some game with Kevin participating. As I perceived the expression on Kevin’s face, however, I understood otherwise, and I began to hear my father’s words echo in my brain. I realized, even at age four, that they were insulting my friend. I walked across the street and over to Kevin’s doorway. I put my arm around him and faced the kids who stood across the street. They then called me various insulting names, most of which I had never heard before.
After a few minutes, the door opened to Kevin’s house and his mother invited us in. She ignored the kids from across the street and warmly greeted us both. She sat us down and gave us each the best tasting oatmeal I had ever had. We shared each other’s company joyfully (none of us even mentioning what had taken place outside) and then, as I got up to leave, Kevin’s mother thanked me for being Kevin’s friend and asked me to tell my mother that she and her husband would be delighted to accept my mom’s invitation for dinner. Unbeknownst to me, my mother and father had taken that step to support Kevin’s parents well before my own in defense of Kevin.
The Untimely Demise of a Good Little Fish. When I was a boy of seven, my father informed me that a local man had invited us to go fishing with him. We joined the man at a nearby lake early in the morning. We fished all day long and caught nothing. At last, just before we began to leave, I caught a fish, a very tiny fish. Our host recommended that I throw it back, but I wanted to keep it as a pet. Obliging me, the man gave me a jar with lake water in it, and I placed the fish in the jar for the ride home. At home my mother produced a gold fish bowl. We added to the lake water in the bowl small amounts of tap water day by day as the little fish adjusted to his new environment. The bowl sat atop the kitchen table beneath a light that extended from the wall. I fed the little fish goldfish food, which it gobbled down ferociously, but remained mindful of my mother’s admonition not to overfeed the fish or it would die. I marveled at how the fish would position itself in the bowl nearest where a person sat and would remain there as long as the person remained seated. In the Spring and Summer, when people would arrive and leave, small flies and moths would occasionally enter the house and would be attracted to the kitchen light. When that happened, the little fish would approach the surface of the water and watch the insects. Periodically, the fish would shoot a thin stream of water from its mouth out of the bowl at a fly or moth, causing the insect to tumble into the bowl, whereupon the fish would consume the insect. Delighted at this, I would open the door on purpose to let in flying insects, straining my mother’s patience, so I could watch the spectacle unfold. I thought the small fish brilliant, particularly because it was such an accurate and effective shot, and I grew quite enamored of it, caring for it faithfully and watching it grow from a tiny fish into a slightly bigger one.
One day in the Fall when I returned from playing football with the neighborhood boys, I saw the fish floating on its side, its stomach was split open, and the container of fish food was empty. I was heartbroken at the sight of the dead little fish. I knew someone had killed it intentionally by overfeeding, but who? I asked my mom and dad who could have done such a thing. They did not know, but, always keenly observant, my father assured me that he would find out.
Around the time of the incident, a new person had been coming to our home. A stocky and muscular high school varsity football lineman, he came to the house to meet my two older sisters and their other high school age friends. He often sat in the kitchen awaiting the arrival of the other teenagers. My father had his suspicions about that this young man, thinking he might well be the culprit. Without advance word to any of us, my father decided to confront the young man.
When the young man next came to visit, he was welcomed into the kitchen, as usual, and sat at the kitchen table. The fish bowl was now gone. My father saw him arrive and then found me, asking me to join him in the kitchen. There, as I watched, my father engaged the young man in polite conversation and then he became a bit more serious, but still conversational. “Did you overfeed my son’s fish, the one that used to be in a goldfish bowl here in the kitchen,” he asked. “Yes, I did,” said the young man laughing. My father then drew closer to him and told him sternly that this was no laughing matter, that his act was cruel and senseless, revealing a depraved character, and he demanded that the young man apologize to me. The young man looked at me but said nothing. My father then leaned forward with his face about an inch from the young man’s. He said quietly yet firmly, “You will apologize.” Again there was silence. Sensing imminent conflict, the young man arrogantly assumed because of my father’s politeness, that the matter would not rise beyond the verbal, testing his luck he said, defiantly, “I am not going to apologize for killing that worthless fish.”
The environment suddenly changed. In an instant my father’s powerful right hand clenched the young man’s throat and within less than a second he lifted the young man up from his seat and against the kitchen wall. Despite the young man’s struggles which were impressive given his size, the power of my father’s single grip overcame all resistance. Realizing his plight, the young man blurted out, “Alright I apologize.” My father let him go, and as the young man quickly moved to the door and a safe exit, he heard my father reprimand him in that same stern, unemotional tone, for his immaturity. My father told him he would not be welcome in our home until he truly appreciated the cruelty and senselessness of his actions.
A week or so later, a somewhat less self-aborbed varsity football lineman showed up at the door. Professing repentance, he was warmly welcomed by my parents as if nothing had happened. Confused then, I asked my father why it was that the young man had been forgiven. Explaining that the young man did all that he could to rectify the situation by truly apologizing, my father concluded: “We all make mistakes, my son, and we all depend upon forgiveness.” The message resonated with me. It seared into my heart and mind at the same time. I began to appreciate the pattern lesson my father was teaching: wrongful conduct must be compensated by justice but thereafter followed by an outpouring of forgiveness.
The Fire Extinguisher. When I was seven, my father was stationed by the U.S. Air Force at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois. My military dependent schoolmates and I discovered the joy of removing caps from the cap gun roll and igniting them by hitting them with a hammer. An older boy told us that if we bent the roll in a criss-cross fashion we could form a cap stack, place piece of string atop it, and then tie it all together with clear tape. The string would be a fuse, he told us, and when lit it would be a cap firecracker. My friends and I thought this a grand idea. We soon assembled all the materials and produced an effective production line, spinning out a dozen or more cap fireworks. One boy’s parents smoked, so he was able to bring a match box from home. Then, seated in the concrete stairwell leading into the basement of my house, we ignited the assembled cap fireworks one by one and delighted as they went off with a violent rat-a-tat-tat series of explosions. My mother heard the racket and ran to the basement door to see what we were doing. She told us we could burn ourselves and the house down, and she confiscated the matches, caps, and remaining string and tape. She undoubtedly informed my father of what I had done.
A day thereafter my father sat down with me and explained the dangers of playing with matches and of fire. Uncertain that I got the message, he asked me a few days later to join him for a early morning car ride to the flight line at the base. He took me into one of the hangars and introduced me to a sergeant who led the military firefighting unit at Chanute. The sergeant told me that I would join him in the front seat of an enormous military fire truck. He explained that when a plane crashes it is often engulfed in flames fed by jet fuel. He explained that the lives of any pilots who could not safely eject would depend upon immediate intervention by the firefighters, directly into the fire. He explained that within a matter of minutes I would join him in the front seat of a fire truck that would enter a jet fuel inferno, and I would watch as firemen dressed head to toe in start of the art fire suits would rapidly enter the flames and pull out two dummies that represented the pilot and co-pilot of the jet. The fire would simultaneously be extinguished by bursts of foam from the mounted fire hoses on the converging fire trucks, one truck of which would include me.
He explained that the truck cabin would become extremely hot because of the intense jet fuel fire heat surrounding it. He said I had to wear special gloves, which he had me put on. He also said that I needed a protective suit, but because he did not have one small enough, he would cover me head to toe in the fire protective helmet which draped down below the shoulder and chest level, enabling my whole body to be covered.
My father anticipated that this experience would leave an indelible impression upon me, convincing me of the awful destructive power of fire. When I showed no reluctance to put on the gear and get in the truck, my father began to wonder.
Then, across the field a steel frame of a jet exploded in a huge ball of flame fed by jet fuel explosives. Strapped in, I fell back in the seat as the fire truck sped into the blaze, the inferno engulfing the entire front end of the fire engine. From all sides I saw nothing but blinding light from the fire (blinding even through the thick tinted helmet visor). The heat was intense, and I could feel it profoundly under the protective clothing. The heat was so intense I thought my pants or shirt might catch on fire.
Then, the foam began spraying from the mounted hose atop the truck and from firemen along the sides of the trucks. As the flames slightly dissipated, I could see men in silver fire suits and connected to oxygen tanks emerge from the fire carrying with them the two dummies representing the pilots, each whisked away by an emergency vehicle.
The experience was exhilarating. Upon our return to the hangar my father and the sergeant were waiting. My father asked me what I learned from the experience. They fully expected for me to express horror at the terrible ferocity and destructive force of the fire. Instead, I told them that I was grateful for the chance to see the fire close up and thought that I might want to become a firefighter. I explained that I thought the men who entered the fire were incredibly brave and wanted to know why foam was sprayed instead of water to put out the blaze.
My father looked at the sergeant and both men smiled and chuckled. “I guess that backfired,” the sergeant said. On the ride home my father explained that he had hoped the experience would teach me just how dangerous fire could be. I agreed that it had done that. In fact, the lesson had been learned after all. At least I no longer thought cap fireworks a good idea.
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© 2015 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved
Jonathan W. Emord is an attorney who practices constitutional and administrative law before the federal courts and agencies. Ron Paul calls Jonathan “a hero of the health freedom revolution” and says “all freedom-loving Americans are in [his] debt . . . for his courtroom [victories] on behalf of health freedom.” He has defeated the FDA in federal court a remarkable eight times, seven on First Amendment grounds, and is the author of the Amazon bestsellers The Rise of Tyranny, Global Censorship of Health Information, and Restore the Republic. He is the American Justice columnist for U.S.A. Today Magazine and joins Robert Scott Bell weekly for “Jonathan Emord’s Sacred Fire of Liberty,” an hour long radio program on government threats to individual liberty. For more info visit Emord.com, join the Emord FDA/FTC Law Group on Linkedin, and follow Jonathan on twitter (@jonathanwemord).
For the past four years during the Christmas season, I have written a column in remembrance of the many great and wonderful lessons I learned from my father, Ernest A. Emord (aka “Tommy Reardon”). I have done so in the hope that these stories, but a small sampling of the remarkable legacy he left, might inspire you to hearken the call of an earlier age...