Monday, November 24, 2008

Eddie Bonifas(1948-2008)

Winter has been hanging on, albeit still early for the continued cold weather we have seen...yesterday was the nice day of the past week, and probably for the next 10 days(although Thanksgiving itself looks pretty nice, partly sunny and 40) as well.

Yesterday brought one of those days and times that you always hate, but come more often when you approach my age. I'm not much for attending funerals, but sometimes at least a visit to the funeral home is something that must be done...yesterday was one such occasion. I had posted earlier this year about my 40th anniversary on being inducted in the Air Force...June 1968 was the time. My friend Ed Bonifas and I had signed up on the "Buddy System" to go into the AF...sometimes things don't always work out, because when it comes to the military, the truth and lies cannot always be separated:

So Eddie and I joined together, but really never got to serve together....even in Basic Training, although we did get to "talk" on occasion...and caught Hell from the TIs for that.

In March 1968, 5 of us, Jones, Muhlenkamp, Siler, Eddie, and me, headed up to Lima to check out our options to enlist in the military. Why enlist you might ask? Well the options were these...Head off to College, get some poor girl to marry our sorry asses, and have kids quick, head for Canada, or wait to get drafted and be out pounding the rice paddies, but only serving 2 years. All of us being of, at best, modest means, were not inclined to head off to college{that would come later for me and others, but I wasn't ready yet)...sure had nor wanted any marriage prospects at 19, and was not inclined to be totin' an M-16 in the jungles of Vietnam...Canada? You got to be kidding?...not an option! Whether the war was right or wrong didn't matter, we were not cowards, draft dodgers, or consciences objectors. So, what to do?

First stop was the Navy Recruiting Station in Lima....all 5 of us listened to the pitch about how great the Navy was going to be....Hell they would even give us our "choice" of assignments....seemed reasonable, and they were ready to sign us up RIGHT THEN, RIGHT NOW, on the spot! Before you could say, "mop that deck sucker", 3 of the crew had signed up. Not so fast....I looked at Ed, and said..."You know, we could end up on a freaking boat for 4 years, and I get sea sick...or worse yet, they could shift our asses to Vietnam as Medics for the Marine branch".

Wait a minute Mr Recruiter....Ed and I think we will wait a day or so...he tried to talk us out of waiting..."If you don't sign now, you will miss your chance to get in with these 3 guys on the "Buddy System". That's OK, we want to think about it....the others were not happy, but agreed to wait while Eddie and I headed downstairs where the Air Force Recruiters were located.

After a long(half hour) talk with the Fly Boys, then some testing...the same promises were made...Buddy System, take this test, and you'll be pretty sure to get what you want. Hell, after all, it's the Air Force, no fighting, probably no Vietnam(right!). So Eddie Allen Bonifas from Coldwater, Ohio, and Patrick Ray Houseworth from Montezuma, Ohio, signed on the dotted line....the rest was history, and much contained on the past posts on this blog.

For the next 3 months Ed and I spent every Saturday at the Recruiter in Lima, doing busy paperwork....this was said to be our pre-duty, and was was total BS of course, but what did we know?

Eddie Bonifas and I became pretty inseparable between March and June of 1968...tossed down beers, double dated, and spent our Saturday afternoons in Lima, and then drank our way home...not smart or safe, but what the Hell?, we were 19 years old.

Ed was from a large family outside of Coldwater, 6 girls and 4 boys, 10 kids in all...He was somewhere in the middle...Eddie graduated from Coldwater High School, me from Celina both in 1967...I was prone to run with several Coldwater guys because dad ran the Gulf Station right across the street from the High School there...Mike Schilling, Mike Knapschafer, Eddie, and others. Plenty of beer was tossed down, and in my case at least, puked up that I remember, it was one of the best times of my early life.
We were supposed to head together to Basic Training, on June 29th....the recruiter called however and told me that I was needed early...about a week or 10 days before Ed...I went, and missed Ed and my "booze soaked going away party"...Bonifas got all the fun...I was in Amarillo, Texas, when "our" party was happening, he would follow a few days after the party. We got to see each other and visit a couple of times during our basic that July....when it was over, I went to San Antonio for Security Police training...Ed was shipped off to Lowery Field, Colorado, to Mechanic School....we didn't see each other again until 1973.

We both eventually returned to west central Ohio....Eddie Bonifas went one way, I the other...sure, we saw each other on occasion, but lived different lives, that is just the way it happens. We remained friends, but sadly, didn't see much of each other the past 35 years. We both came and went from the area, and both finally returned to live out our lives. Ed would have been 60 next month....December 18th...the same day Patricia and I celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. Talking with his brother Doug( a former football standout at Miami of Ohio) and his younger sister Rox at the funeral home...I found out Ed was a fighter until the end....would not take Chemo or Radiation, nor even drugs for the pain. He was ready to go....Doug told me that Ed had given him the "thumbs up" about an hour before he passed....Little Eddie...a tough little SOB in life, was tough right up until the end.

Good bye Friend....may God be with your soul in your final journey.

back later>>>>>>>>>

top photo--my basic training squardron, Amarillo AFB Texas, July 1968...SSgt Joe Prokop head TI.


Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Oh Pat, this was told from the heart. 19?? (Shaking my head, heartbreaking really, huh?) Loved that line, "Or as in my case, puked up most of it." You sure know how to relate a story Pat.

Sorry about your buddy, sounds a shit way to go and far, far too soon.

Buck said...

Sorry to hear about your Bud, Pat. May he rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

I don't go to funerals, ever.

They just bring you down and the guest of honor doesn't know you are there anyway.

Sorry about your buddy. We're just at that age.

Cookie..... said...

Hey Maigo, as you may recall, I wrote something similar about 7 months ago about the loss of my life long best friend. Our stories are a little similar, joined Navy together and yada yada yada. Sorry for your loss mate.

BTW, I happen to notice that your weddin anniversary and mine are the same, December 18th. This is good to know in that we can now notify each other before that date arrives so we don't get in the shits with the wives... ;-)

pat houseworth said...

Thanks Gang...time moves on, and we must go with it.