Saturday, October 01, 2016

Mr. Jack

One of the best men the Colonel has ever known -- and he has been privileged to lead a life full of great men -- has lain in a coma for the last seven weeks.

The call came at dinner time and within 20 minutes the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was out the door and on the road, driving most of the night to get to his bedside.  

Her father -- hard as a set of woodpecker lips -- had dismissed for weeks the headache he chalked up to his chronic sinus issues.

It wasn't his sinuses.  It was a bleed on the outside of his brain.  It had gone on for weeks.


Weeks in which this tough old man continued to do his duty.  You see, he is his wife's primary care-giver and that is his all-consuming passion.

Weeks in which he ignored the pain and continued to drive Miss Martha to appointments and tend to her every need.

He mentioned his pain to his doctor and asked for some sinus meds. The doctor, who had treated him for decades, saw something he didn't like and sent him for a CT scan.  The results put him immediately in ICU and surgery soon thereafter.

Following surgery, he was awake, but very agitated.  He knew he had responsibilities and he was not going to stay in bed.  The doctors sedated him so that he would rest and recover.

He has had only one very brief moment of consciousness since.

And, now, the doctors say complications are setting in, and Mr. Jack's body is failing him fast. 

The Colonel writes this quickly this morning.  He doesn't want to wait until later to write what's on his heart.  The Colonel worries that his quick, feeble words won't do the great man justice, but it can't wait.  

Some men live their entire lives and never know for sure whether anything they ever did really made a difference in their world. 

Some men live their entire lives making sure everybody knows the difference they are making in their world. 

Jack Cannon was the rare man whose impact was felt literally world-wide and yet never once sought recognition.

In the summer of his 16th year, the Colonel and his best buddy started chasing two of Jack Cannon’s greatest accomplishments – his twin daughters, Brenda and Linda. When Jack realized he couldn’t chase them off, he "adopted" them. Jack and Martha had invested their lives in their girls and they weren’t about to let a couple of knucklehead boys mess that up.

For the next three years the Colonel had a ringside seat watching Jack and Martha fight the good fight -- raising their daughters to love the Lord above all else, giving them every reason in the world to love their family above all else on earth, and setting the highest examples of integrity, selflessness, service, and devotion.

Jack Cannon was many things to many, many people.

To some he was a teacher. The Colonel was but one of his many formal and informal pupils. His lessons, both practical and spiritual, were simple and yet life-long.

To the pastors in whose churches he served as a worker, deacon, and administrator, Jack Cannon was always the “go-to guy.” If something needed to be fixed – he fixed it. If a project needed leadership – he led. If a softball team needed a coach – he coached and played. Jack Cannon plugged in and performed at 110% at any and every task no matter how large or inconsequential.

When the Colonel first met him, Jack Cannon was a major in the United States Air Force. One of the great works of God in the Colonel's life was His orchestrating Air Force assignments that placed SMSGT Gregory at the same base in the Panama Canal Zone, 
at the same time, with Major Cannon. 

Jack had come to Panama straight from a year flying dangerous missions in Vietnam. His flying skill was so widely recognized that he was requested by name to serve as the pilot/air crew commander for the general commanding the Air Force’s Southern Command. In that capacity, Jack flew all over Central and South America, and would return from each trip with a small souvenir for Martha and the girls and harrowing tales of flights in and out of challenging airfields for the Colonel and his buddies.

Jack loved flying. Perhaps the cruelest thing the Air Force ever did was give him his last assignment at Tyndall Air Force base --command of the, then, Transportation Squadron – a non-flying command. Jack could have been bitter; could have just coasted in the job. But, as much as Jack loved flying, he was even more committed to doing the best job possible no matter the assignment. The Transportation Squadron was not doing well when he took over – by the time he left it was the best transportation squadron in the Air Force, having won awards that said so.

Jack had several medals and commendations for his heroism and skill as a pilot. His awards from his time in Vietnam, however, were shrouded in a bit of mystery. In Vietnam, he flew a top secret electronic counter-measures aircraft – the EC-47. Not until the Colonel was commissioned years later and held a security clearance did Jack tell him any details of his missions in Vietnam. Later, when the Colonel held a top-secret clearance, he tried to get Jack a copy of one of his awards from the Air Force and was rebuffed – it was still too highly classified, nearly 30 years later.

But, that was okay with Jack. In fact, that was the way he conducted most of his service to others his whole life.

One year around Christmas, the Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda were visiting her parents and Jack said to the Colonel, “C’mon, got a project.” Most times “a project” was fixing something at the church. This time was different. The church had collected baskets of food to give out to needy families and the "project" was to deliver some of them. Simple enough; ring the doorbell, hand them the basket and get a whole load of “feel good” about how wonderful we were giving them food. 

But, no. That wasn’t Jack’s style. He waited until he knew the people weren’t home and then he and the Colonel snuck in, put the food in the cupboards and fridge, and left without leaving a sign. Oh, and the Colonel was the one crawling through an unlocked window to gain access.

With Jack Cannon there was never any doubt. 

There was never any doubt about his intentions.

There was never any doubt about his word.

There was never any doubt about where he stood -- always clearly in the bright daylight of ethical conduct and always on the right side.

There was never any doubt he loved the Lord.

There was never any doubt that Jesus’ teachings and commands were his guides.

There was never any doubt that the Holy Spirit filled his heart and soul. The gifts of the spirit were more evident in his Christian walk than in any other man the Colonel has ever known. There is not a shred of doubt in the Colonel's heart that Jack Cannon will soon be worshipping at the feet of Jesus for eternity.

There was never any doubt that he loved his family. Martha and the girls were his greatest treasures. He and Martha raised two amazing daughters – two of the most fearless, most fiercely loyal, and yet most kind-hearted women the Colonel has ever known. They are, in character, spitting images of Jack Cannon. 

In the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, the Colonel sees her father every day, and that’s a very good thing.

God has blessed the Colonel's life with scores of great leaders and great men of character – none more influential than Lieutenant Colonel John W. Cannon, United States Air Force. 

Thank you, God… and… Thank you, sir.
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