Jim Proser

No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy

The Life of General James Mattis

* Nominated for the 2019 Col. Joseph Alexander Award for Biography by the US Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

My Bill

Posted on May 10, 2014

Bill Lansford came into my life as gently as an ocean breeze off the Pacific.

My pal Bill

My pal Bill, receiving an award for his work honoring veterans. He wears his muffler to ease his neck pain – a reminder of a bad landing as a paratrooper.

As I waited that day on the second story landing facing his front door, l looked to my right and the Pacific winked there, in the sun, sending it’s delicious salt breath to me.   I saw how it seduced all the women out of their clothes and into bikinis.

The salt-rusted screen door in front of me began to rumble with the movements inside the house and the white interior door opened to show me Bill, with his tousled black hair and white/grey moustache, t-shirt and shorts.   “Hi ya, C’mon in!”

That first day, as I walked into his sun sparkling living room of white sofa, soft and bright as a cloud and glass coffee table, thick white carpet – a quiet heaven warmed by the light from the sea – I was tensed for an attack.   I was there to interview him for my book about John Basilone, a war hero he had served with, and I was not a military person.   I had even given him my first chapters to read.   I expected to hear at some point, in so many words, where did I get the nerve to write about some one I never met, and in that person’s own voice?!

But the attack never came, not from Bill anyways.  Other veterans took issue with me writing the life story of an American hero, but not Bill.  He liked what I wrote and accepted my attempt to get to the heart of his friend, even as an outsider who had not been there.  He told me straight out and unpolished, what it was like to be there – in the bottomless horror of the war they had fought in the Pacific.

He spoke without bitterness of the misery and terror they endured but couldn’t resist from turning to a smile when he spoke of his friends including Basilone, and at one point even saying of his military service, “It was fun.”   I was speechless for a moment, and then the wave of joy that was Bill himself gently washed over me.

It was a signal of my acceptance.  I was accepted, a fellow writer and human being.  He knew I was afraid and embarrassed by my own ambition to speak for a national hero, now suddenly I was a friend of his…

Here is his page – http://www.williamdouglaslansford.com/index.htm

So long, pal, my best friend. Maybe we’ll meet again.


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