HeStoppedLovingHerTodayThing about getting older is that all your icons start to die off. If you’re of a certain age, that means Annette (you know, the Mouseketeers), Ronald Reagan, Zane Grey, and, just last week, George Jones.

I once had lunch with Annette aboard the Navy carrier USS Bennington. I was a Navy journalist covering the “Sea Fair” and the “World’s Fair” in Seattle. I picked up Jazz great Jonah Jones at his hotel to give him a lift out to welcome the fleet. When officers aboard Bennington attempted to weed me out dockside, Jonah shook his head. “Huh-uh. This boy’s with us.”

That was how I had lunch with Annette.

The year Ronald Reagan was elected President, I was doing a year’s active duty with U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets). I did four years with the Navy and another 25 with the Army, active and reserve time. I never had lunch with President Reagan—but I would have liked to.

My introduction to C&W music star George Jones came about because of a ski trip with an old army buddy, Alan Bodine. Until then, I was into Rock ‘n Roll—Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chubby Checker… I had grown up out in the country with Grand Ol’ Opry on the radio every Saturday night. The “old folks” gathered ‘round to listen to Little Jimmy Dickens, Grandpa Jones, the Carter Family, Hank Williams… I always found something else to do, until later, when the Opry ended and the old people started telling stories about the Good Old Days.

Anyhow, Bodine and I decided to make a quick run to Colorado to snow ski. He only had one day off, which meant we drove 600 miles after he got off work Saturday, skied Sunday, and drove back Sunday night after catching a couple of winks.

We drove Bodine’s car. His radio didn’t work or something, but he had a tape player—and only one tape, that being by George Jones. So for 24 hours total drive time, we listened to Step Right Up and Wine Colored Roses and He Stopped Loving Her Today… Over and over again.

By the time we got back to Oklahoma I was ready to give George my first born. When he died, it was like losing family. All I could think of was George and Tammy Wynette and He Stopped Loving Her Today.

On October 5, 2005, Sergeant Joe Kapacziewski and his soldiers in a Stryker vehicle were attacked by enemy fighters. Severely wounded, he endured more than 40 surgeries before he chose to have his right leg amputated below the knee. He had one goal in mind: return to the line and serve alongside his fellow Rangers

Back In The Fight by Sergeant Joe Kapacziewski and Charles W. Sasser (released this week by St. Martin’s Press) tells the thrilling combat story of Sergeant Joe Kap, the only American amputee in the military to return to full combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Available at most book stores now, as well as on Amazon.com.