By Harrison Meaux
While serving on active duty as a hospital corpsman, I was assigned to SOQ (Sick Officers Quarters) where I cared for an active-duty four-star admiral. Having been a former WWII pilot, this admiral didn’t talk; he roared! He never used the buzzer to call for me. Instead, he would bellow out, “Cajun, get in here, I need ya!” and then he would tell me what he required.
One day, he yelled for me and told me that he had a very special, top-secret assignment for me and that I would be sworn to secrecy under the penalty of death. There was only one telephone in the nurses quarters closest to him and if I were to receive a call from a person with a special code name, I was to get the admiral into his wheelchair and to the phone as soon as possible. This was at the height of the Cold War with the Russians and spies and I could only imagine what the emergency calls could be about, so I agreed. Each time the phone rang and the code name was given, I got the admiral as fast as I could. It was hard not to tell my shipmates about this top-secret stuff, but I kept quiet.
This went on for a couple of weeks until the admiral was discharged. He left when I was off duty. But when I came in for my shift, there was an envelope on my desk with my name on it. I opened it up and found a note from the admiral, thanking me for taking care of him. There were also five ten dollar bills, and the following explanation: “Cajun, this is your share for getting me to the phone on time to place my bets with my bookie.”
So much for my top-secret assignment!
Harrison Meaux served as a hospital corpsman in the Naval Reserves during the Korean War. After his service, he lived in Rolla, Missouri and worked for the USGS until he retired. He and his wife, Nova, raised four children and have spent countless volunteer hours helping with the Veteran’s Memorial Park.