Thank You For Your Service: Sister Gertrude and the Legend of the Blushing Airborne Ranger

This is an excerpt of the speech given at a luncheon at Donald Mooney Enterprises on June 24th 2016.  I have opted to record it for posterity to remind Captain William Eskridge just how damn awesome we were in our youth–or embarrass  him with the telling. Take your pick!!

Airborne!! All the Way!! Sir!!

Rangers Lead the Way!!

Willing and Able! Mass the fire!!

Hardcore Harry




I sometimes suspect that younger veterans think I am telling tall tales when I tell them that folks didn’t always thank every veteran they meet for their service. Thirty-three years ago, when I was a young 21-year old combat-wounded veteran, the vast majority of people I would meet somehow seemed more interested in “other” concerns of a more personal nature. At  first, I didn’t know what to think of it? Eventually, it became so predictable that it became second nature to respond with the cursory pat answer that satisfied their overriding sense of curiosity. It started with my sister, Robin, asking the doctors in ICU. It reached its apex when a Catholic nun named Sister Gertrude, who was at least all of 80-plus years old, tottered up to my bed on Ward 43C in Beach Pavilion at Fort Sam Houston and introduced herself.


“Hello,” she says shaking my hand.  “My name is Sister Gertrude.”

“How are your testicles?”

Somehow, I managed to stammer out an answer, in my thoroughly embarrassed state, that satisfied her.


“Bless you!” she says, patting me on the hand. She then turns  to the bed adjoining mine. There was then First Lieutenant Bill Eskridge from the Second Ranger Battalion, who had lost his right leg at Calvigny Barracks, during the third day of operations of Operation Urgent Fury.

Bill ...Ranger photo


She asks Bill the same question, in front of all of our friends and family and God.

I don’t recall ever seeing that shade of red on a blushing Airborne Ranger before…

I am also certain that I must have  at least equaled its hue in my previous attempts at a response!!


Again, satisfied with our horrifyingly awkward responses. She thanks us and leaves.

Yet,  the legend and single-minded bravery of this plucky, frail,  and tottering nun has never died!

We both knew right then that we had witnessed an un-daunting courage that neither of us had, or,  would ever, possess!!


Thank you for your service. What does it mean? Personally, I am not always sure about the expression. Indeed, sometimes, I find the phrase inherently uncomfortable and vague. I suppose that this has to do with the fact that most individuals using the phrase are blissfully unaware of the true nature of the object for which they are thanking us for. In some ways, looking back,  the overwhelming comical, carnal curiosity in one’s testes has a genuineness often missing in today’s perfunctory addressing of combat veterans. Because, in asking there is provided  an answer with either in the negative or affirmative that everyone can relate. There, is either loss or joy. Everything is simplified. Everything is related.


“Thank you for your testes, young man!”

“You’re welcome. Glad to oblige!”


Not likely to start a trend, I am afraid.


THAT age has thankfully passed!










Published in: on June 24, 2016 at 9:58 pm  Comments (1)