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home : blogs_old : ability and accountability July 22, 2014

Ability and Accountability
By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ
rhaddad@westernnews.com
"[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."

-- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson

Friday, July 04, 2014

The almost forgotten kindness of Everett Hardin Almond

 Richard Haddad

Above: WWII era U.S. Navy Squadron VS-66 insignia. Inset is the modern day U.S. Navy squadron patch.

I am reading a book my wife recommended that is set during World War II. In one chapter there is a brief mention of a man named Everett Almond. He did something that should not be forgotten. After reading the only few sentences included in the book about what he did, I felt compelled to learn more about this man -- a man whose name should be more than just a notation on a massive government record of men lost at sea during the war. After searching through government reports and records, here is what I learned:

Radioman First Class Everett Hardin Almond was a navigator with U.S. Navy Squadron VS-66. He and his pilot, Lieutenant Arthur (Art) George Reading, were flying a two-man scout plane over the Pacific Ocean on May 16, 1943 when something went terribly wrong.

Today, you can find both of their names listed on a government record called the USN Naval Aircraft Factory OS2N Kingfisher Accident Reports. Next to their names is the four letter acronym, FLEF, which stands for Forced Landing due to Engine Failure.

The pilot was forced to ditch the plane into the ocean.

It is what happened after their aircraft hit the water that compels me to share their story.

Upon impact, pilot Art Reading was knocked unconscious. As the plane began to sink Almond made a decision that changed history for both men. Injured and bleeding himself, Almond could have extracted and inflated the rescue life raft from the Kingfisher and saved himself.

Instead, with what limited time he had, Almond worked to pull his pilot out of the cockpit. He then fastened a life jacket to the unconscious man, whom he then lashed to himself.

Almond tended and succored Reading until he regained consciousness. As Reading awoke, Almond began towing him toward the nearest Island, twenty miles away. Soon the two men saw dark shadows circling them under the water. Almond had been bleeding since they ditched the aircraft. One of the sharks swept in, bit down on Almond's leg and dove, dragging both men deep underwater. Then something gave way and the men rose to the surface in a pool of blood. Almond's leg had been torn off. He then removed his life jacket and gave it to Reading, and separated himself from the pilot in order that the latter might have a better chance of survival. The 21-year-old Everett Almond then sank away.

Reading floated alone for the next 18 hours, kicking at the sharks and hacking at them with his binoculars. By the time a search boat found him, his legs were slashed and his jaw broken by the fin of a shark, but thanks to Almond, he was alive.

When I learn of stories such as this, my heart fills with gratitude. In this case, gratitude for a young man who reached out to help someone even at the very peril of his own life. I think of the love that 21-year-old young man must have had for his fellow man, and I wonder who it was that helped teach him the worth of a soul. I find myself feeling gratitude for those not recorded in the records -- his parents perhaps, or a pastor or teacher whose example made an indelible mark on the young man's heart as he grew up.

To all those parents, grandparents, teachers and preachers who strive to live their lives treating others with respect, courtesy and love -- I thank you.

We see you in our daily lives. We see the difference you make in the way you treat others, the way you smile more, the way you open doors or pause to let someone go before you in a busy store or roadway. Thank you for the examples you provide for our young people.

I sometimes worry about the state of society when I see incidents of anger, hatred, road rage or crime, but then I see one of you.

We need not find ourselves fighting an ocean of sharks, or be required to give up our own mortality in some dramatic way in order to rescue someone. There are opportunities for actions just as noble and important that are placed in our path every day.

Be kind.


Special thanks to author Laura Hillenbrand for mentioning Everett Almond in her book, Unbroken. I borrowed a few sentences from her book to illustrate the story above. Hillenbrand is also the author of blockbuster bestseller, Seabiscuit.

If you like stories of valor, click here to learn more about Hillenbrand's book, Unbroken. You will discover the amazing story about another young man, Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was an Olympic athlete who became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.



Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Article comment by: Michael Shorb

I have a March 1942 picture of Everett Almond. I would like to pass it on.

Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Article comment by: Christa Shore

Everett Hardin Almond was my great uncle. My 9 year old son and I were just looking him up and imagine my surprise at finding such a recent article about him! Obviously I never met him but grew up hearing about him from my grandmother. Thank you for giving me something to share with my son!

Posted: Friday, March 01, 2013
Article comment by: grateful for the greatest generation

i want to thank all the soldiers from the greatest generation. my grandfather was one of those men who served. i hope we will never forget what they gave us.

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: now it's an all-about-me generation

I worry that so many of the current generation here in the US has grown up with such an inward "all-about-me" focus that they do not fully appreciate what was done for them to protect the freedoms they enjoy, and often take for granted. They also may be missing out on the incomparable joy that comes from serving others and putting someone else first. Perhaps this is one reason why divorce rates are so high today.

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

@the wino

Why?


Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: Truth Please

Yet one more example of the "Greatest Generation"

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: the wino

GOD BLESS AMERICA!
The changing time in my life was 1973. life became CHEAP? why?
Our government had sold-out the Vietnam Veterans andRrichard m. Nixon was just about to be found-out "I AM NOT A CROOK"
NOW! --- We- All are living in a time with the GREATEST GENERATION is dwiddling away!
Our country has a population of 51% born after 1981. The Baby Boom of VAMPIRES, ZOMBIES, JUNKIES, and WELFARE BABY BREEDER'S.
They are ALL on-board with the destruction of "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" by OBAMA?
The " sheep" are "ZONEING-OUT" to see the PROGRESSIVE PARTY destroy there dream of "ONE WORLD ORDER"
The NAZI'S tried it but failed!!!--THANK GOD!
SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER must be spinning in HIS grave--YOU-THINK?
CAN'T believe a former p.o.w. and key player in the republican party is just sitting on his hands and letting this happen?
This "BUDS" for you!


Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: The best years of our lives

Richard,

Quite appropriately, I came across your post last night after watching my all-time favorite movie, "The Best Years of Our Lives." I was still thinking about Everett Almond's story when I woke up this morning. You did a wonderful job of giving it a modern context. As you indicated, stories like his occurred so often during the chaos of that period that many simply became buried. Such stories have always helped me put contemporary events and problems in perspective. I've often thought about what it was that so thoroughly prepared the character of a generation of Americans (kids, actually) to face that level of adversity.

Our character, I think, includes our personal and our shared values, as well as our capacity for love and empathy. If developed, our character becomes ingrained and stays with us our entire lives. Its importance can't be overstated. The full measure of our character may never be tested, but when unexpectedly faced with a difficult situation, or as in Almond's case, when confronting unimaginable suffering, it's our character that guides us and allows us to react without hesitation. It may be a cliche, but it's our character that directs us to do the right thing, even when the right thing might involve personal sacrifice. It's also what gives us the strength, following disasters or during hard times, to roll up our sleeves and get on with it. Today, we are still surrounded by acts of valor, heroism, love and integrity. Character will always prevail.

A beautiful piece. Thank you.

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: Milton Sterling

I agree Richard! What a touching story of selflessness. I agree with you about those who strive to live their lives treating others with respect, courtesy and love.



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