Sunday, July 18, 2010


Dear Friends,

During the past several years, I have had the very distinct pleasure of meeting many fine people here in the little seaside village of Amoudara on Crete, but none of them has been any nicer and more pleasant than Kostas Sakoulakis. Kostas and his family own and operate Uncle George's Taverna in Amoudara. But, before I tell you about Uncle George's Taverna, I want to share a little information about Kostas with you. In 1984 when Kostas was still a very young man, just twenty years old, he left his native Crete and traveled to New York City to live with his Uncle John and to attend college in the United States. While attending college, Kostas also worked for his Uncle in the family run business, a small chain of four Greek restaurants, each aptly named, "The Aegean Restaurant", on Long Island. During that time, Kostas developed a genuine love and admiration for America, and in 1988, just four years after having arrived in the United States, Kostas became a naturalized citizen. This was just the beginning for Kostas of living the American Dream! And, two years later, through hard work, sheer determination, and saving his money, Kostas was able to purchase one of the four restaurants from his Uncle John. Things were going very well for Kostas; his business grew and his restaurant gained the reputation for being one of the finest Greek restaurants on all of Long Island. But, then, Kostas' father, George, became seriously ill. Kostas sold his restaurant back to his Uncle John and returned to his home on Crete in 1998 to assist caring for his ailing Father and to help run the family restaurant, Uncle George's Taverna.

That brings us to the present. Today, through the efforts of Kostas and his family, Uncle George's Taverna has become one of the finest Greek restaurants in Amoudara, serving authentic Greek cuisine and also providing some of the best service on the island. Kostas sees that his food contains only the freshest vegetables and ingredients. None of the food contains any artificial preservatives and much of it is organically grown. The food is never prepared in advance, but rather, each dish is prepared as the customer orders it, assuring only the freshest and highest quality.

The restaurant itself is actually divided into three areas: There is a dining area completely enclosed for those who prefer eating inside; there is a dining area which is outside and exposed on two sides, yet under a roof; and, there is a dining area which is outside and uncovered, except for grape vines and beautiful flowers growing overhead. The entire dining experience at Uncle George's is one of a relaxed atmosphere, genuine Greek food that is tastefully prepared, and a staff, headed by Kostas and his family, who are eager to make your dining experience at Uncle George's one of the highlights of your visit! But perhaps most importantly, when you visit Uncle George's Taverna, Kostas is going to treat you like part of his family! This is one of the reasons why I have selected Uncle George's Taverna at 124 A. Papandreou Street in Amoudara to be the inital gathering place for the Crete Reunion 2010 at 7:00 P.M. on August 22, 2010. See you there!

I hope you will take time to look at the photographs below of Uncle George's Taverna. And remember this: If you visit Amoudara and you don't stop by and try some of the delicious food at Uncle George's Taverna, then you have missed a real treat!!!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: Uncle George's Taverna at 124 A. Papandreou Street in Amoudara, Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: Kostas Sakoulakis greets you at the entrance to Uncle George's Taverna with a smile and a menu.

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: The inside dining area of Uncle George's Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The outside dining area of Uncle George's Taverna with the covered roof.

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: The outside dining area of Uncle George's Taverna with just the flowers, trees and sunshine above.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The chef prepares another delicious meal for some lucky customer.

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: One of the staff at Uncle George's Taverna relaxes for just a moment before going back to his duties.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The Mother of Kostas Sakoulakis, Georgia, makes sure that all runs well in the kitchen of Uncle George's Taverna.

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: When night falls, guests and friends begin to gather at Uncle George's Taverna for an evening of delicious dining.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The guests at Uncle George's Taverna enjoy a time of relaxation and great food.

ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: You can choose to dine under the roof or under the stars at Uncle George's Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: Great food and fine wine, beer, or other drinks at Uncle George's Taverna are a fine way to end the evening.

LEFT PHOTO: The outside of Uncle George's Taverna in Amoudara.
RIGHT PHOTO: And lastly, Uncle George keeps a watchful and loving eye over his family and his taverna.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Dear Friends,
I'm sure most of you remember when we were stationed at Iraklion Air Station on Crete, a great many of us had nicknames which stuck to us worse than a BP tarball from the Gulf of Mexico. Names like "Hair", "Polar Bear", "Doo-doo" and "Chickenman" were worn proudly like badges of honor. And, yes, even I had a nickname...Midget. I think that referred to my height...or lack thereof. However, many of you may not be aware, but before I was known as Midget, I had two prior nicknames...nicknames that were in reference to my inability to hold my liquor. Yes, before I was Midget, I was known as "Ralphin' Robert" and "Barfin' Bob"! It seemed that when I drank to an excess, which didn't take much, I would often wake up in a bed spinning wildly out of control and race down the hall toward the latrine in an effort to kneel before the porcelain god and pay homage. However, much of the time, I would either overshoot the latrine like a gooney bird trying to land on a frozen lake or just simply fail to arrive at the latrine in time to deposit my stomach's contents in the appropriate receptacle. When that occurred, the contents of my stomach could often be found the following morning along the side of the hallway, much to the chagrin of the Greeks whose job it was to keep the hallway clean. I'm quite certain that if any of them had found out who had thrown up in their hallway, my life would have been in mortal danger!
That brings me to the following story: One night I had returned from an evening of raucous drinking at the Airmen's Club. I was so smashed that I didn't even have enough sense to know when to go to bed. Some of the other guys who were with me, but more sober than I, made the decision that it was time for me to go to bed. So, with some much needed assistance, my clothes were removed, I was directed to the bed, and the lights turned out. At some point later on, I awoke because of the incessant spinning of my bed. I held on tightly like a child struggling to hold on to a spinning carousel, and my stomach was turning faster than the rotating wheel inside a gyroscope. I knew what was was inevitable...I was about to get sick. When I reached out in my darkened room, I couldn't feel anything, much less see anything. And, for some reason I got the impression that I was outside and alone on a mountainside. Perhaps the cool air blowing in from my open window contributed to that assessment. Fearing that if I moved or tried to descend the mountain, I would surely fall to my death, I did what anyone else would do in a similar situation - I simply leaned over the side of the mountain and threw up!
When I awakened the following morning, not only was I hung over, but I was also a little confused as to how I got off the mountain and made it safely back to my room in the dorm. I walked down the hall to the latrine where I was met with laughter and ridicule from those who had been witness to my previous evening's drinking activities. After a good hot shower, I returned to my room and got dressed in my fatigues. However, when I slid my feet into my combat boots, it felt as if the inside of the boots were a little damp. Thinking the dampness was just my imagination, I finished getting dressed and then proceeded to the chow hall to eat some soup before heading down to the compound to relieve my counterpart. I sat at my position monitoring my assigned targets, when a short time later the airman sitting to my left nudged me. I pulled my left earphone back and asked, "Yeah?" "Do you smell anything, Bob?", he asked. "Like what?", I inquired. "I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it doesn't smell good", he said. I raised my nose in the air and flared my nostrils like a dog on a hunt in an effort to detect both the source and the identity of the odor. "You know, it kind of smells kinda like barf", I said. "Yeah", he responded, "like barf". Then, a few minutes later, the airmen seated to my right tapped my shoulder and asked if I smelled anything odd. "Yes", I said, "It smells like barf". When I pulled my feet out from beneath the console to look for the source of the odor, the odor disappeared. All of us were puzzled as what could be producing such a foul smell. For the remainder of the shift, the odor of barf would wax and wane like tide from the sea. At the end of the shift, I left the compound and went directly to my room in the dorm. I was tired and still feeling the effects of the previous night's drinking. I got to my room and sat down on the bed. I unlaced one of my combat boots and crossed my leg to pull the boot off. As soon as my foot was out of my boot, I noticed something on the bottom of my sock. I looked closely but couldn't quite identify it, but then the tell-tale odor hit me - it smelled like barf! I looked inside and there in the bottom of my combat boot was something that closely resembled leftover vegetable soup. I quickly removed my other boot, only to find the same thing on the bottom of my sock and in the bottom of my other boot! "What the Hell!", I thought to myself as I tried to figure out how Campbell's vegetable soup got inside my combat boots. Then, things began to come together....the night of hard drinking...the darkness...the mountainside...leaning over. "Oh my God!", I said aloud, "I threw up in my combat boots!" I couldn't believe it!!!
Now if the story ended there, it would have been bad enough, but things were about to get even a little worse. I decided the best way to clean my combat boots was to wash them. So, I did what any twenty year old young man would do - I removed the boot laces, walked down the hallway to the laundry room and threw my combat boots into the washing machine. I added plenty of detergent and let my boots go through the wash, rinse and spin cycles repeatedly. After pulling them from the washing machine, I threw the boots into the dryer. I knew that because of the heavy material and leather the boots were made from, it would probably take extra longer for them to dry, so after the first hour was completed, I turned the timer on for another hour, and when that hour was completed, I turned the timer on for one final hour. The boots made an awful sound inside the dryer as they crashed, banged and plopped against the inside of the drum. For the fun of it, I was tempted to fill out a repair tag for the dryer, stating, "Dryer making sound like midget running around dryer drum in combat boots". But, I was afraid the repairman would just write in the comments section of the repair form, "Found midget - took away boots". Anyway, after three hours in the dryer, I reached in and pulled out my boots. Now folks, I don't know how many of you have ever seen little elf boots - you know the ones - with the ends of the toes all curled up. Well, that is exactly how my combat boots looked! The toes of my boots were turned upward in a sharp angle and the surface looked as if someone had buffed them with sandpaper. I decided the only way to straighten out my boots was to wear them. But first I had to put a shine back on them. I must have used almost a full can of Kiwi shoe polish before I was able to get even the slightest hint of a shine on them. And the first time I put on the boots and wore them was pure Hell! I felt as if my toes were turned so far up in an unnatural position that they would surely break. And when I walked, it looked as if I were walking on my heels with my toes pointed skyward. I felt as if I were walking in elf Hell! Now I understand why elfs never smile!!!
Anyway, that's my story...and after 40 years, I'm still sticking with it!
Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.
Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",
Bob Armistead

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Dear Friends,

Well, here I am, safely on Crete again for the third time in as many years. I arrived here on July 2, 2010, suffering from a serious case of "jet lag". I tried to stay up, but at about 8:00 P.M. Friday evening, I succumbed to the effects of "jet lag" and did not get up until almost 10:00 A.M. Saturday morning! I know what you are thinking. "Did Bob go to sleep, or did he go into a coma?" At any rate, I got up Saturday morning, feeling much better than I had on Friday evening!
Now, to get away from the above subject, I just wanted to wish all of you a "Great & Happy Fourth of July". I know that on this day, many of you will attend picnics, family reunions, community celebrations and fireworks displays. I just hope that none of us will ever lose sight of the real reason for celebrating the Birth of this Great Nation of ours. Sometimes, I think when we look at the direction from which our Nation has come, and compare it with the direction in which it is headed, we can become a little pessimistic - I know I do. But, having said that, I would like to share something that happened to me on my trip to Crete in 2008: One day while waiting for the local bus in the little seaside village of Amoudara, I happened to meet two of the nicest American girls that one could possibly hope to meet. One thing that I have discovered is that while visiting a foreign country for any length of time, it is ALWAYS nice to hear someone speaking your native tongue. When I heard Sabryna and Roxy speaking English, I immediately struck up a conversation with them and over a short time, the three of us became fast friends. Sabryna and Roxy were on Crete participating in a college co-operative with Drexel College in Philadelphia, the school they were attending. After the initial meeting, we would often go out to lunch or dinner together, or sometimes they would prepare a home-cooked meal in their little apartment and invite me over.
One morning, Sabryna knocked on the door of my apartment, and insisted that she, Roxy, and I just "had" to get together that evening for dinner to celebrate. "Celebrate?", I asked. "Yes! Don't you know what today is? It's the Fourth of July! Just because we are in a foreign country is no reason not to celebrate our Nation's birthday!" I have to say that I was just a little more than embarrassed and ashamed. I have always thought of myself as somewhat of a flag-waver and a patriot, but here on one of the most significant days in our Nation's history, I had forgotten. Shame on me! But, what struck me as more significant than the fact that I had forgotten the Fourth of July, was that Roxy and Sabryna had remembered! I know from personal experience that I have often been skeptical when I look at today's youth, and wonder if they are capable to assume the mantle of leadership in the days and years ahead. Then, along comes someone like Sabryna and Roxy, who help to instill a confidence, a reassurance and a sense of hope that all will be fine - that our Nation will not just endure...but, through the Grace of God, it shall prevail.
That evening, Sabryna, Roxy, and I sat in a restaurant that overlooked the ancient Venetian Fortress in Iraklion harbor. From our elevated vantage point, we had a wonderful view of the fortress, bathed in white flood-lights. I couldn't help but imagine how tiny Fort McHenry must have looked on the evening when it sustained a continual and heavy bombardment from the British ships in Baltimore Harbor, and how it had refused to surrender. Then I looked at the faces of Sabryna and Roxy and how the reflected light from the fortress shone on their faces almost like an aurora. It was then that I realized as long as there were young men and women like Sabryna and Roxy who refused to forget the significance and importance of our National heritage, perhaps there was still hope for our Country and our Future. God Bless Sabryna and Roxy...wherever you are, and may God continue to Bless America! Happy Fourth of July!!!
Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",
Bob Armistead