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Thursday, August 03, 2017

A Belated R.I.P.: Brother Richard A. Vickery


This is a far too belated post, and one that I really didn't write with any enthusiasm, but I had been searching off and on for weeks through old files to find an old photo I had lost. My friend and Brother Richard A. Vickery from San Antonio, Texas passed away unexpectedly back on April 14th. I found out a few days afterwards, but I just received an updated message about his grave last week, reminding me to go dig deeper and look for that photo again.

For many years he wrote the "From Darkness To Light" Masonic blog, back when the world was young and dinosaurs ruled the Earth. Despite that some of his family and friends knew him better as 'Alex' (for his middle name), he always signed his messages to me as 'Vick,' and that was how I knew him. Brother Vick invited me to come and speak down at Perfect Union Lodge 10 in San Antonio way back in 2009, and he became a good, if long distance friend. (He's the tall drink of water in the photo on the left, next to me and WBro. Brett Doyle, who was the Master that year.) 

On that trip, he took me to see the Alamo and the Scottish Rite center downtown, and we shared drinks in the bar of the incredibly historic Menger Hotel, the same Victorian bar where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his first volunteers for the 'Rough Riders.' I even bought a special new pipe to commemorate the occasion. He and Brett saw to it that no expenses were too lavish, and they put me up at the Menger. With former guests like Presidents Grant, Taft, Wilson, McKinley, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and even Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, I didn't feel like I even had the right to put my head on one of their pillows. San Antonio was partying that weekend, and there was a huge street fair going on the whole time. It was a great experience, and I cherish the wonderful memories of that trip to this day.

In 2002, Vick joined The U.S. Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant and wound up serving two tours on the ground in the thick of things in Afghanistan. He was part of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and became fluent in translating Pashto. Far from being confined to just a lab, he wound up serving as a special intelligence advisor to the deputy chief of staff in Afghanistan, and he'd been specifically requested for the position by General Stanley McChrystal. Over the years, he provided briefs for the Secretary of Defense Gates, Secretary of State Clinton, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, and untold others. After his work at handling Congressional complaints from the battlefield, the Inspector General called him the "most effective Lt I've supervised in my 22 years." 

He seemed to do just about everything, from his work on developing new directed energy weapons systems, right down to sitting in Afghan and Taliban war lord tents and houses, bearded and dressed like a local, glad handing with slippery negotiators, and analyzing their every word and gesture to figure out the truth from their hyperbole. Throughout the course of his service, he received numerous awards and commendations, including the Bronze Star of Valor, and was eventually promoted to the rank of Major.

Click to enlarge.

While in Afghanistan, he was receiving the early issues of the new Journal of the Masonic Society as I was still trying to figure out how to pull that off four times a year, and he sent me the greatest photo (up top) that is the image of him I'll never forget. That's the one I wanted to find again.

I always worried that he and that tall, bald head would make an easy target for some Taliban sharpshooter, and constantly reminded him to keep it down, but he was a certified marksman himself. He was definitely not some laboratory desk jockey. A typically casual message from him would periodically come from him, like this bit of gallows humor-laced reporting while he was in Kandahar:
Afghan Border Patrol (ABP) discovered a stolen Afghan National Police (ANP) Ford Ranger. Not wanting to approach it in fear that it was booby trapped, the ABP decided to fire an RPG at the truck. In awe, the Coalition Forces mentors attempted to persuade the ABP in an alternate Course of Action.

ABP fired the RPG missing the truck and striking a tree just adjacent to the truck. The detonation caused a concealed, would be suicide bomber to fall out of the tree and onto the truck. The suicide bomber then accidentally detonated and caused secondary explosions from the rigged VBIED truck.
No CIVCAS, all forces 100% M/W/E.
He finally got to come home and stay home, but the last few years were rough on Vick. After all he'd been through, in 2015 he and his wife divorced, and his mother passed away. But he still had his rescue pups, Arnold and Annie. He was suffering from seizures and other afflictions from his battlefield days and standing too close to pesky annoyances like exploding IEDs and falling suicide bombers. Yet in spite of surviving all of that, he wound up taking a bad fall at home that caused major skull damage. After spending several days in ICU, he was eventually released, and returned home. But in a tragic and senseless end that no one could have foreseen, his new fiancé Melissa came to the house on April 14th and found him dead. They had just become engaged this year.


Major Richard Alexander Vickery, III was buried with military honors in Sam Houston National Cemetery on May 1st of this year. Lumps of silent stones in grassy fields don't tell the stories of the lives they represent. But maybe what they really do is remind us that it's our job to keep telling them instead—we have to do that for them. So I apologize, Brother Vick, for telling yours later than I should have. You traveled far and wide in those 40 short years, and you and Melissa got robbed of a life you both deserved to enjoy. You did indeed earn that happiness, and I wish it had been fulfilled. Thanks, my friend and brother, for letting me share in your circle of friendship and touching my life. You are not forgotten.

Richard Vickery and Melissa Alderman, 2017
Requiescat in pace.

3 comments:

  1. RIP Brother
    Adrian Bunn, Sanbec Lodge No 8787, Province of Cheshire, England

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this beautiful tribute Chris. Yes, Brother Vickery was a true asset to the U.S. Armed Forces as well as Masonry. He is missed.

    Scott Geary
    Past Master, Perfect Union #10

    ReplyDelete
  3. RIP Brother, in that temple not built with hands, eternal in the heavans. That celestial lodge above.
    Tom Caldwell, Atascosa Lodge 379, Lytle, Texas

    ReplyDelete

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