Fuegle: The old war bird protected us

March 3, 2014

In 1968, just before I left for Southeast Asia, I was given a wooden beer bottle opener as a good luck gift. I named him Fuegle and he became my inanimate guardian angel while at UTapoa Royal Thai Airfield, Thailand. Fuegle and I returned safely. My best man at my wedding soon got his orders to Southeast Asia, so I let him borrow Fuegle, and again the war bird returned to Thailand. He and my friend returned a year later, unharmed. Fuegle then went into a serene and peaceful retirement.

Flash ahead many years to the war in Afghanistan. Joey, a young and courageous Marine with whom I became friends was returning for his third deployment in harm’s way. Fuegle volunteered to come out of retirement to once again be a guardian angel and hopefully bring yet another soldier safely home. And he did, but not unscathed. Joey always sat Fuegle on the dashboard of his humvee when on patrol missions.

Then came the day when Joey’s humvee struck an IED. Joey was knocked unconscious by the blast. He came to on the ground, only to discover the humvee in flames. His first thoughts were to help his fellow soldiers who were seriously wounded in the blast. And then Joey went into the burning humvee to retrieve Fuegle. You see, he had promised me he would bring Fuegle back from Afghanistan, so the Old War Bird could return to his well earned retirement. Talk about keeping a promise.

Joey was wounded, awarded a Purple Heart, which was one of several he had turned down during his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marines don’t accept Purple Hearts. Instead, Joey awarded his Purple Heart to Fuegle, who had sustained shrapnel wounds in the IED blast.

I tell this story in reaction to Secretary of Defense Hagel’s recent announcement of significant reductions in force and pay cuts to our military members. His actions are nothing less than yet another wound inflicted on our dedicated men and women who are and have served our country unselfishly and with great honor.

Joey is representative of so many of our military who bear wounds they will carry the rest of their lives. If I had one wish, it would be for Joey and a 100 other fellow soldiers, to be afforded the opportunity to have both Hagel and Obama look each one of them in the eye and tell them how they can possibly rationalize hurting them, without taking away a single cent from all the illegal aliens who are better taken care of than them. It’s despicable. It’s criminal.

Steve Hyle

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