Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Dear Friends,

When I first created this site, I had intended that all posts would have a direct correlation to Crete, the 6931st Security Group, Iraklion Air Station, or “Charlie Flight”.  However, last year after devastating floods had resulted in 2.3 billion dollars worth of damage, as well as 32 deaths in the middle Tennessee area, I decided to post a commentary with photos that reflected some of the damage to my hometown.

I have now decided to post another commentary with photos which has absolutely nothing to do with those aforementioned parameters outlined in the preceding paragraph.

Immediately after I retired from the U.S. Postal Service in January of 2004, I decided that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it was imperative that I begin a workout routine at the gym.  Although I had been a member of the YMCA for several years, I had seldom used their facilities.  Now that I was retired, I had absolutely no excuse for not spending time at the gym and attempting to develop and maintain a healthy mind, spirit and body.  One of the very first individuals whom I met at the YMCA was a lovely blond-haired lady, named Melanie.  She was friendly, personable, witty and intelligent…a rare combination of qualities not often found in any one person.  Within just a short period of time, Melanie and I became good friends and would often spend time talking to each other while on the arc trainers at the YMCA.

Recently, Melanie experienced an illness and complications that the “average” person would have had difficulty enduring and ultimately overcoming.  However, my friend, Melanie, can hardly be called “average”.  I strongly suspect that beneath her clothing, she wears a bright blue t-shirt which bears a very large red “S” in the middle of that shirt.  Yes, I am now convinced that Superman is really a lady named Melanie!

From the first week of November until the middle of December, Melanie spent most of her time in the intensive care units of two different hospitals, battling not only septic shock, but also cardiac arrest, viral pneumonia in both lungs, being placed on a respirator, undergoing a tracheotomy, experiencing intestinal bleeding, and requiring transfusions.  She also spent time in a specialty hospital whose purpose it was to help patients become independent of respirators.

Finally, on December 13th, after 43 consecutive days of hospitalization and medical care, Melanie was released from a hospital in Nashville and allowed to return to her home.  While I have to give much credit to the medical community, I must also recognize that Melanie was the object of countless prayers which were heard by a loving and caring God.

On Friday, December 23rd Melanie returned to the YMCA for the first time since her illness.  When she entered the YMCA facility, she was met by a large “WELCOME BACK MELANIE” banner and was immediately besieged by well-wishers and friends who had missed her lovely smile, her bubbling personality and her positive attitude!  I have documented that visit to the YMCA below with photographs and captions.

Before closing, I would like to thank the YMCA for allowing me to collect signatures and well-wishes on Melanie’s “Welcome Back” banner and then permitting me to hang that banner at the YMCA facility just prior to Melanie’s visit.  I would also like to thank Brent Parchman and his crew at Ledbetter Signs in Clarksville, Tennessee, for designing and printing a banner that was perfect for the occasion.  I might also add that after having placed my order for the banner, Brent saw to it that the banner was ready the following morning – now, that’s service!!!  And, lastly, I would like to thank all of those who signed Melanie’s banner and prayed for her recovery.   Thank you all.  And, in keeping with the Christmas Season and in the words of Tiny Tim…”God Bless Us…Everyone!”

Your Friend,

Bobby Armistead


ABOVE PHOTO:  Melanies's
"Welcome Back" sign hangs in
the lobby of the YMCA.
ABOVE PHOTO:  Well-wishers
gather around Melanie upon her
return to the YMCA on Dec. 23,

ABOVE PHOTO:  George Ketch
(orange shirt) directs Melanie to
smile at the camera in the YMCA.
ABOVE PHOTO:  Melanie is greeted
by Bobby Armistead at the YMCA on
Dec. 23, 2011.

Melanie shares a moment
with Bobby Armistead at
the YMCA on Dec. 23, 2011.

ABOVE PHOTO:   Melanie chats
with Mr. Nanny, Director of
Maintenance, at the YMCA on
Dec. 23, 2011.

Melanie poses under her
"Welcome Back" sign
at the YMCA on
Dec. 23, 2011.
Melanie poses with
Bobby Armistead under
her "Welcome Back sign
at the YMCA.

ABOVE PHOTO:  Well-wishers gather
around Melanie beneath her "Welcome
Back" sign at the YMCA on Dec. 23, 2011.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Dear Friends,

I have come to believe that those compliments which are the most treasured are those which are totally unsolicited and completely unexpected.  On my first return trip to Crete in 2008, I received what I consider to be certainly one of the nicest and most sincere compliments of my entire life.  That year, during my three month stay on Crete, one of the first people whom I met and became friends with was George Stamatakis, the owner of the MariRena Hotel.  George was a short Cretan man with thinning dark brown hair, olive-colored skin, dancing dark eyes, a jovial disposition and a pleasant smile which seldom departed his face.  George’s English, which was far superior to my Greek, was articulated with a heavy accent and most often spoken almost like prose or poetry.  It is my opinion that many Greeks in general and Cretans more specifically, possess that natural ability to speak in such a smooth, flowing manner that it more closely resembles literary honey than a spoken language.

At that time I frequently ate at the Dionysus Taverna which adjoined, and was part of the MariRena Hotel.  George Stamatakis would often spend the evening hours at the Dionysus Taverna, moving from table to table and spending time with his customers, almost like a culinary ambassador.  One particular evening I had enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Dionysus Taverna and sipped a carafe of chilled white wine which was a perfect accent to my meal.  Upon seeing that my carafe was empty, George directed that an additional carafe of white wine be sent to my table along with his compliments.  Even though the meal had satisfied my hunger and I was quite full, there was not even the remotest possibility that I would turn down the wine and risk hurting my friend’s feelings.  Therefore, I slowly sipped the second carafe of wine and as I did so, could feel that warm glow which had gathered in my stomach, begin to make its way upward to my face and most notably, my cheeks.  By the time that I had finished the second carafe of wine, most of my cares had disappeared just as surely as the contents of that carafe had also vanished.  In most tavernas on Crete, it is customary that upon completion of the meal, a plate of fruit consisting of watermelon pieces, cantaloupe slices, or an assortment of grapes, be brought to the table, along with a small flask of  raki (tsikoudia), and the Dionysus Taverna was not an exception to that unspoken tenet.  Shortly after the fruit and raki were placed before me, George joined me  at my table, asked me how my meal was, and then encouraged me to enjoy the fruit and raki…which I  did….slowly….very slowly.  As I partook of the fruit and raki, I couldn’t ignore the fact that my speech was becoming slurred and everything at or near my table had been duplicated, including George.  When he spoke, his speech resonated and echoed as if he were either speaking from inside a deep barrel, or else I was hearing from deep inside a barrel.  As we continued to talk, I began to relate to George of my love for Crete, its people, history, heritage, culture, language, and food.  When we had concluded our conversation, I rose to my feet, and holding to the edge of the table to steady myself, turned to George and said, “Sometimes I think that I should have been born a Cretan.”  These were neither idle words, nor were they words which were alcohol-induced.  George smiled and then spoke, saying, “But, there is no need…for you are already a Cretan…right here.”  And with that, George reached forward and tapped on my chest directly over my heart.  I was at a complete loss for words and perhaps that was best, for even if I had been able to find the appropriate words, I’m not sure that I could have found the necessary composure to have spoken them!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead