In early 1973, when the late Admiral James Bond Stockdale returned home to Coronado after enduring nearly eight years in captivity at North Vietnam’s infamously horrific Hanoi Hilton as America’s highest-ranking prisoner of war, yours truly was a free-spirited, freedom-loving 15-year-old playing Senior Little League baseball for Coronado Shores, the orange team.
One of our teammates was Stanford Stockdale, son of newly-repatriated, then-Captain Stockdale. Stan was two years my junior, but alas, later in life was unable to purge personal demons, passing away way too young at 54 in 2014.
Also on our team that 1973 season was the late Lorton Mitchell, local homebuilder of noted distinction, who died of a rare, aggressive form of cancer in 2015 on the day after Saint Patrick’s Day. He was 55.
Within a matter of months, I’d lost two old teammates, yet they weren’t “old” at all, bringing one’s own mortality into perspective: something to ponder [sigh] as one’s dotage looms nigh.
I remember Stan as being a fine young fellow, full of spirit! And Lorton’s lasting legacy of excellence still stands, embodied in his beautiful buildings. Just look around town.
Fast-forward three decades beyond my Little League exploits, when one day not too terribly long ago, around the turn of the century [GULP], it became my privilege to transport Medal of Honor recipient VADM Stockdale and his family to the airport in my capacity with Coronado Livery. The Stockdales, including Stan, if memory serves, were on their way to Washington, D.C. where the retired Admiral was to receive yet another award. Although Admiral Stockdale was getting on in years by then, and would enter into rest not long thereafter, the man was still impressive. It was an honor to finally meet him in person and shake his hand.
Nowadays whenever I enter NAS North Island via the gate named in VADM Stockdale’s honor, and look up at the majestic, static display of an A-4 Skyhawk, I remember the late Admiral and my two departed teammates, Stan and Lorton. I pray all three have found Eternal peace.
To borrow briefly from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” “May flights of Angels sing thee to thy Rest.”
Amen to that.