A bright, clear, humid Carterican morning awaited a Pax of 50 at the Memorial Day Convergence at Rotary Park. Fifty! Just, wow. A two-minute warning had to be given to try and get arms around a group this large, and then a 1-minute warning. After welcoming our visitors from off, and our 4 FNGs, YHC had a special announcement before getting on with the events of our day.
Gilligan, Malibu, Okinawa (1 minute late), and Pasquale were introduced into the middle of the circle. These four men, along with The Sensation, are the OGs of F3 Carterico. They were all in the same spin class at the Sports Center, yes this all started because of a spin class. Said spin class instructor gets pregnant and the boys are now workoutless. On November 4, 2015 Gilligan invites these guys to try this “F3 thing” he’s been doing in Greensboro, and the rest as they say is history. The special announcement for this morning was that F3 Carterico had just received region status from F3 Nation. No longer are we a band of misfit, foul mouthed, rule breaking nomads on the coast. We are now a map dot. We are legitimate. We are a band of misfit, foul mouthed, rule breaking region on the coast. F3 Nation surely will never be the same.
With this celebration aside, it was time to focus on why we had all chosen to get up and post at this Memorial Day convergence. Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. YHC is a math teacher and coach at West Carteret HS and a lifelong resident of Morehead City. Until a week ago, I had never heard the name John Calvin Collins, but I will not forget it. PFC John Calvin Collins graduated from West Carteret HS in 1967 and was killed in action in Vietnam, May 24, 1968. He was 19 years old. He is the only Morehead City resident KIA during the Vietnam War.
I had kept a lot of the plans for this convergence close to the vest. No one really knew where we were going. We ran out of the park, led by 10 shovel flags, and then up 20th St doing double barreled Indian Runs to the front of the columns. Every man would take his turns carrying each of the flags. YHC set the pace out front and it was really cool to see the number of cars that stopped just to watch us run by. They didn’t know what we were doing, and most of us didn’t know where we were going, but Memorial Day is a day of reverence and respect. Maybe one day we can continue that reverence and respect past the days the calendar tells us to.
After crossing the Calico Creek Bridge, the columns were tightened back up and the 6 retrieved. YHC announced that we would be entering the cemetery. We walked silently to a quiet corner of Bayview Cemetery. The flags were aligned and planted in the median of the cemetery service road and we all circled up in front of a small, white marble headstone and the final resting place of PFC Collins. I can tell you he was 19 years old when he was killed, but when you read the dates on his headstone it becomes much more real. We’ve read stories about sacrifice, we know families directly impacted, and we post every day with men who have served for our freedom, my freedom, and my children’s freedom. I had no connection with PFC Collins other than we went to the same high school, and I recalled seeing a plaque bearing his name at the Parks and Rec center downtown. But now I know about him, I can tell part of his story, as can the other 50 of my closest friends.
Falling back in two our lines, flags out front, we Indian ran back to Rotary Park where another surprise awaited. Originally it had been planned to have Ms. Vivian Collins, sister to PFC Collins, meet us at the cemetery to talk to us about her brother. But some extenuating circumstances had kept her from the cemetery, but I was delighted to see her under the picnic shelter as we got back to Rotary Park.
Ms. Collins told us about her older brother John. He had been a loving, doting older brother, one of 8 brothers and sisters. He was the oldest and was often the one tasked with babysitting while his parents worked. He worked part time at the News Stand to help make money for the family. He loved playing basketball and baseball. She told us that his dreams were to have a family, and a job, and experience life as an adult. She had brought with her some of memories from her brother’s life. His varsity letter, his high school diploma, some pictures, and the flag the family had been given on behalf of a grateful nation.
She was of middle school age at the time, but her last memories of her brother were both touching and heartbreaking. He had come home from boot camp in November 1967 before he was to be deployed. She told us that he knew he would not be coming home. The night before he was to leave, he kissed her and told her he loved her, and became very upset. His parents tried to keep the younger children away as to not upset them as well. Ms. Collins said their mother was up all night with John, comforting him and praying with him. I can’t imagine the fear he felt that night, or the nights that followed. I also can’t describe the courage it took for him to do it anyway.
The last contact the family had with John came in the form of a letter he sent in January 68. They had no idea up to that point where he was, if he was alive, how he was doing. In the summer of 68, she and her sisters were playing in the yard when they noticed a white car with “US Government” on the side driving up and down past their house. That’s when they learned the most awful of news. PFC John Calvin Collins had been killed on May 24, 1968 in the Thua Thien Province in South Vietnam.
Listening to Ms. Collins, I was reminded of a quote “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” As the Pax filed through and giving her their thanks, I got the opportunity to tell her about F3. She was very thankful to be given the opportunity to talk about her brother. I told her I was proud to be given the opportunity to share his story, that his memory and his sacrifice would be forever remembered by every man there. And she made me promise to remind you all of John 13:35 “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
After saying our goodbyes, we hustled out to the big soccer field. Jang led us in 19 SSHs and 19 burpees to represent PFC Collins 19 years of life. And then it was on to
The Thang- The Quarter Pounder
25 yd sprint-25 Hand Release Merkins-25 yd back pedal
50 yd sprint-50 squats-50 yd back pedal
75 yd sprint-75 LBCs-75 yd back pedal
100 yd sprint-100 SSHs-mosey back to the flags
Four FNGs today. Welcome Gents. It never gets easier, you just get stronger.
Gilligan patched those in attendance with our GrowRuck patches, and tac hats courtesy of Gertrude.
Laettner took us out in the COT.
Today was never intended to be about a workout. It was about honoring a man, and the family he left behind. PFC John Calvin Collins is just one man, one of many who didn’t come home from that war. There are a lot of John Collins’ out there, but he is ours. May we never forget.
I’ve never been more humbled or proud to be a part of a group such as ours.