Mrs. Gert Boyle, Measured For Toughness

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May 4, 2011 by David Gillaspie

One Size Does Not Fit All

The Doctor Is In

A boy may look for the definition of ‘tough’ in their dad’s sock drawer.

If they find a Silver Star and Purple Heart, then move to the closet and find Marine Corps Dress Blues, they’ve seen enough.

After I pulled an Army tour, I asked my dad about his medals.

“What were you doing in the Korean War?”

His answer was tough.  “Being young and stupid and living through it.”

He became the kind of father kids without dads dream of, kind and decent and working to be a better man.

No hero-worship for him, just a dad like the rest of them.  No brooding silence to manic action.  He didn’t cultivate fear, he didn’t have to.  He’d taken out enough people in a messy war to know fear worked both ways.

The only story he told was coming in from the field with prisoners.  He delivered four prisoners four different times to the same forward detention guy who walked prisoners off the front lines to a holding area in the rear.

After bringing in the second prisoner, the old man asked the guard about the first man.

“Did you have any problems taking him in?” he asked.

“Tried to escape and I, uh, you know, shot him,” the guard said.

He shot the second prisoner on an escape, then the third, and reported it to SSgt. Gillaspie with a smirk that tried to say the only good North Korean soldier is a dead Chinese soldier.

His smirk wasn’t good enough.

My dad was a combat Marine.  He said he went nine months without more than a spit bath.  He was AWOL from a hospital where he went for treatment after being machine-gunned.  The authorities hunted him down to his unit in the field.

That’s where he lived and where he came from, the field.

He was a hardened Marine from a hard rural childhood.  The only thing better was if he’d been from Kentucky, or Texas, instead of a Washington tree swinger.  Either way, Wayne B. Gillaspie had a well defined sense of right and wrong.

He would have shot and killed his prisoners himself if he felt they deserved it.  That a REMF did it irked him and his squad.

He handed off the fourth prisoner to the detention guy with something extra.

“If he gets shot by anyone on the way down, we will find you and deliver you the same way.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the guard said.

“We don’t want our prisoners shot by some officer’s boot licker, boy.  Find another thrill.”

“I don’t lick boots.”

“You lick something.  If you didn’t, you’d be out with us living in a hole in the ground instead of hot bunking in the Captain’s quarters.”

Cut it any way, that’s Marine on Marine.  Did the prisoner make it to the back area?

Rush forward to an event from the past year.  Gert ‘One Tough Mother’ Boyle of Columbia Sportswear found herself at the mercy of a kidnapper.

He was a man of no mercy, a criminal with no boundaries, bashing an eighty year old woman.

The man slammed Mrs. Boyle around her house like she was a POW, abusing her to break her down.

He tied her hands behind her back with a lead so he could walk her and yank on her to make his point.  He clawed at her face and jammed her mouth to keep her quiet.  He put a gun on her and ordered her to disrobe.

The man worked Mrs. Boyle like she was an inmate in a Turkish prison and he was trying to impress the new warden with his brutality.

Did this happen in West Linn, or an undisclosed location?

My mother in law is in her eighties like Mr. Boyle, women who have lived through the toughest times and come out better.  She served in WWII with the British Navy, came to America with everything in a suitcase, and raised a family.

Along the way she fought the good fight and found success.  She buried two husbands and moved away from friends to be closer to family.  It’s been an honor to know she trusts me with important things, and her daughter.

Like Mrs. Boyle, my mother in law speaks her mind.  They’ve earned the right.  A thug giving a beat down for a car or jewelry leaves an awful trail of pain.  These are wise women of the world, not punching bags for get-rich-quick schemers to throw in the ditch.

If you spoke to a friend back from war and he said he was nervous, uneasy around strangers, avoided crowds, you’d wonder what happened and never ask, just be glad he made it.  We know what happened to Mrs. Boyle, the fight of her life.  She came through it, but there’s always more.

From the Mayo Clinic:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Getting treatment as soon as possible after post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms develop may prevent long-term post-traumatic stress disorder.

For those of us with older people in our lives, Gert Boyle is a treasure.

If you hear someone planning to harm our treasures, convince them not to.  Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

The fourth POW my dad handed over in Korea made it to the rear safely because of a good guy.  If you hear plans about beating and robbing an old lady, don’t let it happen.

Be tough enough to be a good guy.  Be mentally tough, instead of mental, and coach them up. 


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