My traditional final column of the year for several years has been feedback received about columns that year. Feedback has tapered off in recent years, as has audience attendance at many types of events in the area, leaving one to conclude that folks are occupied with other pursuits.
A note on the kitchen table in early January said Shandra Gilfert called to say she liked my recent column and was going to send a copy to her sister. The call had to be about that day's column, Jan. 4, telling of some "strange customs in America," as that was my first column of the year.
A note a few days later was from an old friend, an elderly woman who said she "Enjoyed my article, but couldn't remember which one it was, and there was no need to call her back."
I'm not naming her as she died a few months later, a WW II veteran's widow who I've missed all year.
Another old friend, Ret. Lt. Col. Dave Seigel, a CGSC tactics instructor and fellow history buff, emailed to say he enjoyed the article in January about how a WW I U.S. Army shovel ended up in a Vietcong bunker in Vietnam in 1967.
I've wondered since 1967 how it got there myself.
Switching to a long-time Air Force buddy, Ret. Lt. Col. Rick McKee, who emailed in early February to say "Your articles continue to be a highlight of the Leavenworth paper."
He and I have collaborated on several columns in the 20 or so years we've known each other, and his assistance is always appreciated.
A February column that mentioned my buddy the late Federal Judge Arthur J. Stanley Jr, of Leavenworth, brought a card from one of his daughters, Carolyn Lane in Colorado, saying in part "As long as you write your column for the Leavenworth Times I'll continue to subscribe! I look forward to reading your columns and have learned so much about what we both believe in – our country, its history, and the military."
Coach emeritus Jim Mathis emailed in February "I just read your article and quiz about a president.
I was about to phone you with my answer, but read further and you gave it. Some major things at the fort are named for U.S. Grant, and he was never stationed there. I didn't know that."
Col. Rod Cox, currently an Army historian at the fort, wrote "I always enjoy reading your columns in the Leavenworth Times as they are entertaining and often informative and I appreciate the historical mindedness your work promotes. If my office can ever be of assistance, please let me know."
Throughout the year I received emails from old CGSC buddy Ret. Maj. Gen. Ken Bowra, now in Saudi Arabia with the State Department, an avowed history buff, who commented on several columns. Interestingly, due to the international dateline, he sends his comments before my paper even arrives.
Page 2 of 2 - He's also provided many column leads through the years.
My column in early December about how John Wayne saved the Marine Corps from being eliminated brought a call from long-time friend Ret. Lt. Col. John Hardaway, who said "I read all your columns and in my opinion this one was the very best."
He then explained how he met and had several conversations with Wayne at Fort Benning, Ga., during the filming of the movie The Green Berets.
Only one brickbat was received this year, an email to the editor from an unhappy retired Army officer saying a column "was absurd and contained stories that were untrue," and more.
My reply to the editor was that the items in the column were meant to be "tongue in cheek," as they were so absurd they had to have been made up, but all had also been printed. That was explained in my lead.
This goes to prove, I suppose, that while most readers will join in a laugh at something obviously absurd, which should make it funny, others do not.
Hard to judge readers' minds.
Bottom line: You can't please all readers all the time. But I continue to try. Happy New Year!
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.