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Damo

What's the craziest real life plot twist you have?

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Caught this one on Reddit this arv and for whatever reason I felt the urge to share it here. Shout out to @seehund and @Twinair

 

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This is a long and meandering story that came to a climax about 12 years ago. It's one of the most bizarre things that's happened to me, and left me rattled and puzzled for a long time.

 

When I was in college, my father retired and moved to New Orleans. He had lived there in his 20s and 30s, and his two sons from his first marriage (my half brothers) still lived there.

 

He moved into a cool apartment complex with a swimming pool in the center courtyard and a lot of sociable people his age. One of them was a retired army general. I'll call him Tom. My dad and Tom were they same age, and both Korean War veterans. My dad had been in the Marines for four years during the latter part of the war, while Tom had stayed in and risen through the ranks.

 

Tom had been to Ranger school and the Special Forces pipeline, and was a country expert for Korea. He was in Korea for most of the Cold War, training ROK marines, gaming out WWIII scenarios, and working closely with a large, private corporation I'll not name here doing semi-spook stuff. He retired shortly before September 11th. He was a full colonel at the time, and was promoted to brigadier general (one-star) just before retirement to sweeten his pension. That was kind of a professional courtesy/old boy club thing. After 9/11, the government expanded the Federal Air Marshal Service, and asked Tom to come out of retirement lead the restructuring. They wanted someone who didn't have a parent command, and since he had been out of the army for a year or so, he was a good candidate. They promoted him to major general (two-star) so that he would have clout among the other generals, GS-15 civilian employees, and private sector executives he'd be working with. Colin Powell pinned his second star on him personally in the White House.

 

At this time I was in the Marine reserve myself, and getting ready to graduate college. I'd not yet been called up for OIF or OEF, so I was looking for my first "grown up" job. My dad suggested that being an air marshal could be fun for a year or two, even if it wasn't exactly something I was interested in. I had a clearance and and was an expert on the range, not mention I was a friend of the 2-star who was running the program, so I was maybe a step ahead of some of the other candidates. My dad arranged a phone call with Tom to talk about my options.

 

At this point I'd met Tom many times when I'd go to visit my dad. He was one of the kindest men I've known. We'd sit around the pool and I would pick his brain endlessly about his military experience and the spooky adventures he was at liberty to talk about. As a young enlisted Marine, it's hard to describe the feeling of being close with a two-star general. I had seen a general maybe three times at that point. If you're a lance corporal in a rifle platoon and a major shows up in the barracks, you snap to attention and bark out "attention on deck!" like it was Darth Vader walking in the room. Somebody with stars on their collar might just give you heart attack right there. So to be shooting the shit with Tom was pretty special for me.

 

Tom was a widower and an old southern gentleman, and dated women here and there. Although he didn't smoke he always carried a Zippo lighter with him to light a lady's cigarette. He lit a cigarette for me by the pool one day, and I noted that his Zippo had a ranger crest on it. He said that his daughter had given it to him years before, and he thought it was gaudy at the time (he wasn't the type to advertise his status), but he came to cherish it after his daughter died. She had been an avid equestrian and had died in a car accident in Costa Rica in the 70s or early 80s while she was down there for some kind of riding event. His wife died of cancer some years later. Tom's apartment was covered in photos of his daughter in riding gear. She was beautiful. The dated feel of the portraits, frozen in the 1970s, the quiet apartment, and Tom's outward sanguinity were all horribly tragic.

 

At any rate, we spoke on the phone about the air marshal program. He couldn't answer a lot of my questions due to operational security, but we talked for about an hour. In the end another job came up and I didn't opt for the air marshal program. Still, my dad would give me regular updates whenever Tom would go back to New Orleans on leave. Once Tom told my father that they'd done computer simulations of a terrorist running up an airplane aisle, and the only part that stayed relatively motionless was the groin. Obviously in an airplane you want to hit the target and not the fuselage, so they decided to aim for the groin as part of their doctrine.

 

My dad was a physician and told Tom that there would be a tremendous amount of bleeding, and that would be a problem if they wanted to take anyone alive. Being a curious man, my dad set about coming up with a solution to this in his free time. He sketched out a sort of jock strap with a hemostatic agent where the cup would be, and gave it to Tom. Tom came back to him some months later and said that a prominent pharmaceutical company was making a prototype. My dad didn't want money or credit, he was just happy to have been involved in solving a small problem for his country. After the Iraq invasion, Tom left the Air Marshal program and worked on Condoleeza Rice's staff as a national security aide.

 

All in all, everyone loved Tom. He and my dad became very good friends in a few short years. Tom took my brothers' kids to Saints games. They lived in family neighborhoods where everyone was always sitting on the porch and visiting with each other in the summer. Tom would swing by some evenings, and my niece and nephew and all the neighborhood kids would come running, yelling "Mr. Tom!" as they do in the south.

 

I was mobilized in 2004 and my father died shortly before I deployed to Iraq. I went to New Orleans on emergency leave, and my brothers, their wives, my sister, my girlfriend and I drove to Grand Isle, Louisiana to scatter his ashes in the Gulf. Tom wore his full dress uniform. After the ashes were in the water, Tom removed his white gloves and threw them in as well. I'd not known this tradition before but I was touched by it. He choked back tears and had a lump in his voice. Later he took my sister and me to an expensive dinner at one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans, and told us he was always there for us, anything we needed, any time.

 

I fell out of touch with Tom after deploying and coming home. When Katrina hit, I called my sister-in-law Maggie to see if everyone was okay. I asked about Tom, and she said "Oh my God, you didn't hear about Mr. Tom?" I tensed up and said no, what happened? What she said settled over me slowly like slime.

 

Maggie's neighborhood was under water and she, my brother, and her kids went to a friend's house on high ground. There were a dozen others there in the same situation. One of them was Tom's older sister, who would have been in her 80s. She and Maggie knew each other by name and reputation but had not met until then. Maggie introduced herself and asked after Tom. His sister was worried, as she'd not heard from him since the storm. Maggie said "Well, I wouldn't worry. I bet the government has a list of VIPs to check on and Mr. Tom is surely on it."

 

Tom's sister said "Maggie, I don't know what Tom has told you, but..."

 

Not a general. Not a Ranger. No Air Marshall program. No Condoleeza Rice, no Colin Powell, no bleeding out through the groin problem for my dad to waste his time solving, no nothing. Tom was in fact a penny-ante lawyer. What was true was that Tom's sister's deceased husband was a Korea vet, a Ranger, a high-ranker, and a spook. Tom grew up admiring everything about his brother-in-law. At some point Tom's dreary, real-life lawyer job faded from his reality, and his fantasies replaced them. The truly sick and disturbing thing was that his daughter and ex-wife were very much alive; they'd just written him off when his detachment became too much. So he killed them off in his narrative. Still, his daughter had the heart to take him in after Katrina destroyed the apartment building, we found out later.

 

My girlfriend watched my face collapse as I talked to Maggie, and she was equally devastated when I told her after I got off the phone. I had so many questions. What if I had followed up on the Air Marshal thing, and said "Hey, Mr. Tom sent me!" Then some of the particulars hit me. He said he was only promoted to the general ranks after retirement, so he would have had an answer as to why he wasn't listed in the army website's general officer biographies. He probably had an answer to the Air Marshal thing too. It's like writing a screenplay- coming up with plausible explanations for kinks in the story or character development.

 

Maggie ran into him a couple months after Katrina. He was all smiles and Maggie said "Stop. Your sister told me everything." He just laughed and said "Oh, that old bat's crazy." That was the last any of us ever heard of him. I've googled him but not found anything.

 

I'm just glad my father passed away not knowing the truth. He would have been bereft and possibly would have beat the shit out of him. I'm saddened by my dead father having been played like a fool in his last years, but I'm also sad for Tom. The gloves in the water and all that were bullshit, but his tears weren't, nor his graciousness at dinner with my sister and me. With the life in Washington DC being phony and his relatives having written him off, my dad and our family were really the closest people he had in his life.

 

https://www.reddit.com/r/askreddit/comments/8kl2nu/_/dz96rwa

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Posted (edited)

When I was somewhat younger, probably around 20-23 there was a group house situation where a few of my mates started staying and as it happened later on I lived there twice when in-between houses of my own (though not relevant and well after this).

 

At one point, a bloke who a mate worked with lived there. He was older than all of us, but I would have guessed not by a big margin, probably 10-12 at the absolute most. So that should put his birth date somewhere between 1955 and 1963.

He constantly dug up Vietnam stories though in a very general sense and I was puzzled as to how the hell he could ever have been there during the war as a serving soldier. He was a pretty easy-going bloke and otherwised seemed sane and a good person but the war stories were even doubted by my mate.

This bloke was younger than my old man by a good margin, and my old man was only eligible for draft for probably the last 4 or 5 years of the affair (wasn't called up).

Edited by Rybags

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I met a few like that Ry, especially on ANZAC Day. I remember back in the early 00's we did one up at Bowraville and there was this guy with a fake ID and a moth eaten suit telling us that he was CIA and lived up on the hill at the house with "all of the communication dishes and aerials".

 

He tried to get on the mini bus with us for the service up at the cemetary and the local coppers locked him up.

 

You could see it in his eyes though. He carried himself like Trumps personal secret service agent. Talking into his collar.. no doubt saying that the eagle had landed.

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The other puzzling aspect - we're talking late 1980s which is still well and truly in the era where the affair was viewed with shame and the veterans were still being shunned and not exactly invited to events with open arms.

Also, I knew plenty who had served - they tended to share that common demeanor of steely gaze and "bottled up" thoughts, although they usually still retain a sense of humour. This guy if anything seemed immature and not very "worldly".

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I think we all have had a brush with Baron Munchausen at some point. Provided that you know they're just telling stories, the stories can be quite entertaining - though I seem to be in the minority in that opinion. The real problems come when decisions are made based upon stuff that just isn't true - like, it's you and the bullshitter 'pilot' left, so you give him the controls; or people elect a president on it.

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Vietnam was a purest stupidity both by the U.S. and by Australia. Look at it now, not a bad country at all, but they'll be cleaning up the detritus of war for a long time yet.

 

I was there, purely as an observer, being born in 1952 I was old enough, but the RAF really did not know what to do with me so they sent me off - to observe... I doubt the report was ever read. That's Whitehall for you.

 

I did, being me, go downtown Hanoi a couple of times, backseat, rather terrifying, the flak was immense, but it was never a war that I ever understood, just why America even wanted to get into it is still a mystery, at least to me. The ideology made little sense, South Vietnam was, to put it bluntly, decadent, probably because of the French influence.

 

I'm sure the U.S. servicemen had a lot of mattress time with the very attractive women there but you don't go to war, especially drafted, for a lay.

 

I went to wars because I saw there was a cause worth defending, I left Vietnam very depressed, it was never a winnable war.

 

America keeps on doing it though, all across the Middle East, have to use all that expensive military kit somewhere I suppose but even "supporting" Israel never made much sense. I have a lot of time for the concept of Israel, a lot less for Israelis, arrogant bunch, but they can look after themselves, probably even better now than in the past wars they have won, to the point that I doubt there will be another one, terror is different story.

 

Terrorists these days are pretty much raised from the cradle and usually die young. It would be far more productive to put the energy into improving the surrounding countries and accepting that Israel exists, but that mentality has yet to emerge, possibly it never will.

 

Israel does not want war, it is perfectly happy to be at peace but it has not been able to be, even though it has quite a large Arab population, quite a few of whom serve in the armed forces, they don't really care what religion you are but the Muslim nations seem to care, a lot.

 

A bit of a thread derail, but a subject I do care about, a lot.

 

Cheers

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Posted (edited)

I must have been leading a pretty sheltered existence, I don't believe I've met (physically) a liar of that magnitude.

I have met the odd delusional person that thinks everyone wants their partner, but not an actual liar as the OP talks about ...

Edited by eveln

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I must have been leading a pretty sheltered existence, I don't believe I've met (physically) a liar of that magnitude.

I have met the odd delusional person that thinks everyone wants their partner, but not an actual liar as the OP talks about ...

I will bet you your house that you have. Whether or not you realised it is another matter. ;p

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I must have been leading a pretty sheltered existence, I don't believe I've met (physically) a liar of that magnitude.

I have met the odd delusional person that thinks everyone wants their partner, but not an actual liar as the OP talks about ...

I will bet you your house that you have. Whether or not you realised it is another matter. ;p

 

No, not on the scale of the OP; not killing off un-needed relos, no. Sure plenty who've lied to my face on particular incidents, but that's not even in the same league. I know there's a Labor pollie ( Urban I think his name is ) who's had to resign due to quite a fulsome imagination re his credentials, but I've not met him either .

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