Ron Costello

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I love this time of year when the Cadets and Midshipmen from West Point and the Naval Academy come into the city to get ready for Saturday's Army-Navy game.

Saturday morning, way before the 3 p.m. kickoff, I'll shop at the Reading Terminal — as I've done every Saturday morning for the past 15 years — and the Terminal will be filled with curious Cadets and Midshipmen checking out the place.

They'll  be posing for photographs in front of Johnnies Fish Market or Ben's Amish Bakery.  I like it when sometimes they'll ask me to take the shot.

I like talking to them and finding out where they're from, and how much they know about Philly. And, thanking them for guarding the wall (see Nicholson video at right.)

Colonel John Vernon (R), with his son, Sergeant John Vernon, Jr., at Fort
Bragg, NC, just after they both returned from serving their country in
Iraq. John senior graduated from Ranger School and served in a Ranger 
unit from 1989-93.
While Colonel Jessup in the video is fictitious — the men and women at the Terminal on Saturday are certainly not.

And neither is John Vernon. That's Colonel John Vernon

John is a former student of mine at Mansfield High School.

I had John in my 12th grade class, and no, he wasn't a pain in the ass. I'm FB friends with him as I am with many of the students I taught at Mansfield.

My first question to John was do you remember if I was fair to you? He said he didn't — run a dagger through the ego of my heart — but he also didn't have any negative feelings about me, he said, so we must have gotten along.

He also didn't remember what grade I gave me. It was probably an A. He's a very smart guy.

Today, it gives me pleasure to be FB friends with a Patriot who did indeed guard the wall.

John is conservative —  whew, is he ever — and I'm a step toward the left, but we go out of our way to respect each other's opinions. Well, sort of. Sometimes. On occasion. All right, never.

You know what they say, the right wing and the left wing are part of the same bird.

And talk about a Patriot.

John went through the ROTC program at Rutgers University. He served with the 82 Airborne Division in Italy and the Ranger training Brigade and deployed as an Operations Officer in Operation Dessert Storm. After combat duty in the Middle East, he served as Chief of Training for the 10th Mountain Division.

He also had combat duty in Bosnia. In 2004, John was the Deputy Director of Operations, United States Forces, Japan, until 2007. He also served as Chief of Operations, Multi-National Force, Iraq. He was handpicked to serve the Army as Inspector General for the Maryland Army and Air National Guard.

His list of medals is as long as your arm, including Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Expert Infantryman's Badge, and the Ranger Tab. He lives with his wife Diana outside of Washington and they have two children, Erica, 30 and John Jr., 28. John senior is planning to run for the US Congress.

Now, here's what I'm planning to do.

Next time — and every time — the news about those scumbag ISIS comes up, I'm going to think about Colonel Vernon and the wonderful men in women in uniform I'll see Saturday.

And then I'll thank God that I live in this wonderful land of freedom.

You can purchase Colonel Vernon's book, Angels Watching Over Me, here at Amazon dot com 

It would make a great Christmas gift to the veteran in your family.

Please read a true story: Veterans Helping Veterans, by Cathleen Vernon, Colonel John Vernon's sister.
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