My father, Edward Joseph Collins, who lived in Alba for most of his youth, served in the United Navy prior to and during World War II. He was the youngest sailor on the search for downed flier Amelia Earhart in l937. He served in several war theatres in World War II and was nominated for the highest decoration in the United States Navy, the Navy Cross. While he did was not accorded the honor, to be nominated was an honor. His military rank was chief boatswains mate, a very hard rank to earn during war and peacetime ... then and even today.

My Uncle, Michael Dudek was a ships baker in World War II. My Uncle Fred McCloskey was a Chaplain the Air Force. He later served as a Baptist minister for almost 60 years. My uncle, Dalton McCloskey, was in the Army. I served in the Navy.

I had (I hate that word) a fine fishing buddy, Garry Walker, from Sylvania, who regaled me with tales of his military service in Vietnam as a U.S. Navy medic stationed with a Marine Corps unit. We had wonderful times doing a lot of fishing and some hunting together. Gary was with me when I killed my first wild turkey. I have had/have four great fishing buddies. That story is for another time. Gary Walker is on that list. I found out just a few years ago that a Navy Corpsman is considered a Marine and welcome to join any Marine Corps League.

Sadly, the defoliant Agent Orange finally killed him of cancer. I lost a wonderful friend who would do anything for me. Few folks have such friends during a lifetime. I found out just recently that the term Agent Orange was because the poison was in 55 gallon drum barrels colored orange.

I miss my fishing buddy. He had an infectious laugh that I still remember well. We did a lot of fishing together and told each other a number of fishing lies; which all anglers tell. I had the honor to serve as a member of those who stood up for him and his bride Rachael at his wedding at a church in Sayre. The reception was held at the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Sayre. I remember fondly collecting dollars for the "first dance" with the bride and groom. Upon my idea, we collected a whole bunch of money when I slowed danced with Gary, on a bet, cheek to cheek. Some folks at that wedding said not only had they never seen that before, they loved it. What a day that was. We made over $500 for the bridal couple. I shall never forget it. Gary died way too young as most combat veterans do.

When our government leaders stand before Almighty God, they will have to give an accounting of their actions in Vietnam and other wars. I am glad that I do not have to stand at that altar. It is a sad thing that so many young folks died - for what? As a veteran, I do have "standing" on these issues.

When Linda and I visited the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida in April 2010, our tour bus guide stated the following, "The Land of the Free, because of the Brave." I said, 'Amen." We were seated just behind him. When we departed the bus, I thanked him. I will never forget his reply. "Thank you Sir, You were in the military right?" I nodded in agreement and found it, not surprisingly, that he was in the military also. It is an unspoken bond upon military brothers. His was a firm handshake.

I read this statement some years ago which says it all for us military and Christian folks. It goes like this; "Only two folks have ever signed up to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American Soldier." I believe that statement is true. The Marines have a slogan,"'Semper Fi." It means "Always Faithful." That is the mantra of the American soldier. My Prayer; "God Bless our Military, past and present; and God Bless America!"

p.s. Jack, you asked for a column, here it is. This is also a good time to answer the many inquires that have come this way this year asking why this column does not appear on a weekly basis like the last 25 to 30 plus years. The answer is various reasons to wit: It is not always easy to write a weekly column. I know when what I write is suitable to read. My eye surgeries over the past two years have left me with only one eye to read and write at times; a major problem if one has not experienced it. Lastly, I just do not have the drive any longer to churn out columns on a regular basis. Fortunately, the editors of the newspaper that publish this column understand the situation. Thanks for your support. Some fishing stories with my favorite fishing buddy, Gary Avery, will be in my next column. Also, I am proud to be able to salute our veterans and be able to write this column, lengthy as it is. I humbly consider it one of my best efforts for a lot of reasons. Nuff said.

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Jim Collins is an outdoor columnist for The Sunday Review. He can be contacted by e-mail at jimcollinsinsurance@frontiernet.net or by mail at Outdoors with Jim Collins, HC, 1: 87 Windfall Road, Alba, PA 16910.