On March 20, 1941, against his own wishes, Phil Giadone was drafted into the United States Army.  It was World War II and he was sent to Hawaii and shipped out to Java just a day or so before Pearl Harbor was attacked on the morning of December 7, 1941.  In the nick of time- a theme in Phil's military life.  In Java, he ran the motor pool, once even driving Doolittle Jr.

He was transferred to the Air Force (I think it was the Air Force...) in Java and ran the motor pool for the artillery division.  Java was part of the Dutch East Indies conquest.  Because it had rubber and oil, it was valuable to Japan, who was cut off from all resources.  Japan has no native source of oil, so once President Franklin Delano Roosevelt froze all of Japan’s assets and embargoed all oil in July of 1941, they needed a new country to get oil.  Japan took control of Java and the other islands early in 1942. 

Phil was part of the last exodus.  Japanese air raids had become morning routine.  Every day at the same time, the sirens would start and the soldiers would run for the jungle.  One day, instead of running to the jungle for cover, Phil ran for the airport and got out before the bombing trapped him.  In the nick of time.  He spent the rest of his time in Australia running a motor pool.

In 1945, his term was up and he thought he was going home but he was shipped to Arizona and had to wait to August 1945 before he was allowed home to California.

Phil is Marc’s first cousin, once removed, although he has always been more like a grandfather to us.  Phil recently had a bout of shingles, which for a 92-year-old is not an easy thing.  But he was released from the hospital yesterday and off to an interim home.  We hope to have him back to his own home within a few weeks- he just has t o get his strength back.  Phil’s a good person, a fun person AND a veteran!  So today, I honor him (as I do all days). 
I woke this morning too early (forgot to change the clock in the bedroom...) and when I checked my emails, I had a CNN breaking news that Joe Frazier had died.  I never liked boxing or followed it one bit, but my cousin Jeff and I spent a lot of time talking about Joe Frazier. 

For a time, we lived with my aunt and uncle and their three boys.  During this time, about 11 years old, I was obsessed with my tape recorder- you know, the old rectangular kind with big buttons.  Pressing PLAY and RECORD at the same time brought magic.  I had signs that said, “Shhhhh.  Taping,” that I’d pin on the door.  I had a microphone that I would interview people with.  My cousins and brother and I would do skits.

Jeff’s specialty was doing the sports casting for our news show.  He was 11 months younger than me and the funniest kid around.  I would do serious news in a manly voice and it would make no sense.  But Jeff would do an impeccable impersonation of Howard Cosell and yet spin it to make it hilarious.  He could also do President Jimmy Carter.  The best was when he did both.

“Ha-i.  I’m President Jimmy Carta.”  “I’m Howard Cosell.”

Then he’d call a fight between Mohamed Ali and Joe Frazier as both and I’d nearly wet my pants laughing.  Once, he had a bird fly in and bite Joe Frazier on the neck.  “And he died.”

Really, can it get any funnier?  Not to an 11-year-old with an amazing cousin.

So thanks, Joe Frazier, for whatever it was you did in boxing AND  for the good times we had with birds biting you on the neck until death.