Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Déjà Vu All Over Again

I’m on the road again, but this is the last time as a military person. I will be retiring from the Navy reserve at the end of September.

In order to make all that happen I needed to travel to the headquarters of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing to begin the rather arduous, time-consuming process we refer to as “checking out.” This has necessitated that I go through a final retirement physical. I couldn’t believe how much blood they had to draw! I was getting a bit concerned when I saw five vials lined up. “All’s well that ends well,” they say. And I’m feeling fine.

There is a significant amount of paperwork to accomplish and administrative tasking required before you are officially retired. I realize it’s all quite necessary; however, I will be celebrating once I have completed the last document sometime next week.

So I said to myself – “Chuck, you have a free weekend coming up. You are far from home with no preaching responsibilities on Sunday. Hmmmm . . . What are you going to do, old boy? Ah! I know!” I grabbed the small map I picked up from the car rental and looked to see what area it covered. It was perfect! I now knew exactly what I was going to be doing over the weekend.

Some time ago I wrote about my great grandfather, Reverend Daniel Thatcher Lake. He was one of the last of the old circuit-riding preachers in the south. The era of circuit-riding preachers in the United States was roughly from 1750 to 1910. Great Granddaddy was traversing most of east Texas from the middle of the 1800s until almost 1890. GGDaddy Lake was born and raised in Carroll County, Tennessee. Since he had to work most of the time, he had little of what we might call a childhood – which meant there was precious little time for going to school, or doing any “book learnin’.” Not to be put off, he attended school for a few weeks each summer, proving to be a quick study. By the time he was twenty he was proficient enough in his academic pursuits to be hired as a teacher in Panola County, Mississippi. It was here that he married his wife, Mary Griffis. He was then hired to teach school in Harris County, Texas.

Later on, in Bethel, Texas, he had a conversion experience. He surrendered his life to Christ and thereby began a journey of service to the Savior that would take him through many experiences that can only be described from Psalm 23: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me . . .”

Our family is blessed to have had GGDaddy Lake write out his memoirs toward the end of his life. He spends a good deal of time describing his travels, particularly during his time of military service with Whitfield’s Legion, latter known as the 27th Texas Cavalry. He goes into some detail about the battles and military engagements they were involved in. Late in December of 1862 he was wounded during a shootout with some of General Grant’s boys near the state line of Tennessee and Mississippi. Due to the seriousness of his wounds, he was discharged and released from further military duty. He then traveled on a mule captured from the Federalists (a name used by the southern boys to describe those living north of the Mason-Dixon Line), wending his way through northern Mississippi gradually bearing south to follow the “Mighty Mississip.” As he was nearing Vicksburg, he crossed “Old Man River,” making his way across northern Louisiana and finally home to east Texas.

As you may have figured out by now, I’m going to hop in my rental car and drive up to northern Mississippi, staying Friday and Saturday nights in a hotel in Tupelo (hometown of Elvis). There are battle sites all around that area which my GGDaddy fought in. So I’m going to visit as many of these locations as possible, arriving back in New Orleans by Sunday evening.

I’ve read his memoirs a couple of times and have even traced his steps on a map. But now I’ll get to see these places for myself. I’ll be able to look at the terrain, smell the air, see the natural places for military fortification for battles in Iuka and Corinth, Mississippi, and the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee. I can hardly wait!

That’s why it’s déjà vu all over again!

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