Terry White begins most days with a cup of coffee in his hands.
The retired major in the U.S. Air Force has sipped his morning joe in 35 different countries. One morning though, it did more than give him a kick-start: It made him feel like the luckiest man in the world.
As he stood in his garage, thinking about the Air Force blue rocking chair he received as a retirement gift from his parents, Kathie and Terry White Sr., it was two words and a heart on a coffee mug that left this 49-year-old tough guy shivering — more than fighting in Desert Storm and Desert Shield ever did; more than his missions in Afghanistan, Iran and Darfur, Sudan.
The words simply said: “I (heart/love) Mom.”
“I thought. Why yes, I do love my mama,” White said. “She taught me how to live, laugh, pray, do my chores, be and try my best at anything I set out to accomplish … how to behave in public and how to take a butt-beating that I more than deserved, which taught me toughness, sorrow, punishment for breaking a rule and respect for authority.”
He was just getting warmed up.
“Mostly when I think of my mother, I see a lady that has given her life to Jesus, my father, her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren and a half-century of Sunday school kids in the Elida area.
“I will also remember her stepping up and going to work at the Gomer Elementary School cafeteria to earn money for our family while my dad endured cancer treatments which all but killed him. By the end, he beat cancer and she ran the entire school district lunch program.”
White always felt he had special parents. But that August morning, when he clutched that coffee mug, it became even more clear to him how blessed he was. That’s likely true with many in the military, he noted, something that often gets missed when celebrating Veterans Day.
“Since moving back to Ohio I’ve had time to reunite with my parents, which is special,” Terry said. “I want to thank them for providing me the moral guidance of helping my neighbor in need and always standing up for my belief in country, family and community.”
White left Northwest Ohio for the Air Force two weeks after he graduated from Elida High School in 1996. He’s traveled the world, meeting his wife, Mia, in Alaska. They are a military family. Mia also is retired from the Air Force and two of their sons are in the Air Force. A third son, the rebel of the family, enlisted in the Army.
Terry and Mia now live in Dayton — “It’s close to Wright-Pat Air Force base, where Mia works part time” – and also close to Mom and Dad in Elida.
White spent his last two years in the Air Force in Afghanistan, helping train its troops.
“I still keep in touch with some of them on Facebook,” he said. “I’ll send photographs of what’s happening in the U.S. It helps them understand that Westerners aren’t bad people.”
No, they’re not.
There are a lot of good folks in the West.
You don’t have to look any further than the White family for proof.
ROSES AND THORNS: A memorial is set aside in the rose garden for a fun-loving man.
Rose: It was a fitting funeral Saturday for Robert E. Buettner, 87, of Gomer. Known for his love of horses, his casket was taken from Gomer Congregational Church to Carmen Cemetery by a carriage pulled by two palomino horses and driven by his daughter. The carriage was the same one used in the burial of his father. Friends told stories about how in Robert’s later years, his first wife of 59 years, Eloise, would tell him to stay off the horses. But as soon as she went to the grocery, he was riding around.
Rose: To Elida High School chemistry teacher Shelby Cluts, who was selected as an Outstanding Educator of the Year by the University of Chicago.
Rose: Former Waynesfield resident Carrie Yale Matula was working at a convenience store last week when she heard the shootings taking place at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. She was shown in an Associated Press photograph offering comfort to a survivor.
Rose: To the 40 to 50 employees at Crown Equipment who made their way to a safe location before a tornado ripped up part of the facility.
Rose: To U.S. Army Maj. Christopher Kleman, a 1997 graduate of Lima Central Catholic. As part of a Veterans Day tribute, he was chosen to take part in the coin toss before the Appalachian State vs. Georgia Southern college football game televised on ESPN-U on Thursday night.
Thorn: An American Electric Power truck was stolen from rural Van Wert County and was recovered later in Paulding County.
PARTING SHOT: What’s the most dangerous part of a motorcycle? The nut that connects the seat to the handlebar.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.