Wednesday, March 30, 2016

He Held A Starship

Marcel at breakfast on Day 1... 18, March, 2011

He Held A Starship
by Alfred Lehmberg

Dan Lauing was worried and fretting as regards Colonel Jesse Marcel... It was late morning on the third day of Lauing's OZUFO conference in Lawrence, Kansas, and two full days of trying to herd ufological cats was taking its toll.  The harried impresario needed someone to walk the Colonel a block back to his hotel from the conference location after his presentation.  From initial introduction I'd found Colonel Marcel to be as approachable as he was agreeable.   I quickly volunteered.

The Colonel, by no means necessitating a call to 911, had had a toll taken, too.  He was presently the Prince of Lawrence, Kansas, usually surrounded by a glut of people competing for attention, all of whom were demanding individual time and dwindling energy on ufological subjects largely unutterable and exhausting just for that.  

Two full days of this were exhausting and his fatigue was plain. Couple all of this with the slings and arrows endured in over three decades of arduous service to his country and so double down on that to which flesh and time makes heir. 

He was truly the walking wounded suffering, perhaps, the self-criticism of a suspicion that he might have been ill used in pursuit of an unethical and overweening pecuniary foreign policy.  A sane man takes his atrocity pretty hard... quite apart from buckling down and getting on with what is necessary for God and Country, eh?  A toll will be paid.  

He was slow walking and even shuffling, sometimes.  I had to assist him up and down curbs.  Still, and not at my urging, we chatted.

On the way, I reintroduced myself with my credentials.  He relaxed.  We were brothers of the same service sword right down to the same Aviation Badge, after all.

As we walked and talked, he wanted to hear about me and "summer of Saucers" expert, Frank Feschino, which illustrated something about the man.  The Colonel was an MD, a rated aviator, and a flight surgeon.  Called back, after his job was done, he served in the Middle East, long in tooth even if tall in saddle.  I'm reminded mildly of Roland Deschain

He didn't need my adoration; he showed too much humility and guilelessness for that. He was a family man beloved of subordinates, by report, and revered by superiors.  He was, without doubt, a fine man of impressive caliber and sterling record.  

He didn't need UFOs to give his life meaning. Duplicity would have meant that he had forgotten the face of his father.  He was not complicated in that fashion. He saw what he saw.  He knew what he knew.  He'd touched what he'd touched.

As we slowly made our way, he spoke weakly if authoritatively on the unutterable aforementioned.  He regarded inhabited planets orbiting distant stars.  He regarded the character of beings extant upon them.  He regarded what form they would take and what their priorities would be.  

He wondered upon the inevitability of war where there was war and the quality of the peace where there was peace.  He wondered on the length and breadth of a vast universe known and unknown and beyond any knowing at all.  

He considered the memory the alien artifice he'd held and turned in his trembling hands that dark summer night in 1947 New Mexico when his father, Jesse Senior, woke him to witness the unnamable, his highly respected and capable father's eyes dancing as he grinned widely with astonished delight at a pile of flying saucer parts he thought to show his son.  To their dying day the two of them maintained that the material they'd held in their hands was, "...not of this Earth..."

We arrived at his hotel then. I helped this proud gentleman, this decorated soldier and hero of foreign wars, this stalwart witness to the unknown... up that last curb.  

We entered the lobby and I escorted him to the lift, his hand on my forearm, and as he shuffled into the elevator he thanked me warmly for my assistance.  The door closed on his smiling face, and the Colonel was gone.  I'd never see him again.  Rest in honored peace, Colonel.  

Jesse Marcel, Junior, 1936-2013... he'd held a starship in his hands.