"Hello, General."

March 1, 2005


One day, about two years into my time in the Army,  I was hiding out in my radio van at the motor pool by trying to look busy.

A jeep pulled up next to my van and our 82nd DivArty Headquarters First Sergeant yelled out, "Hey Sayers, you're wanted back at Headquarters. It's so important that they sent me to get you. What the hell did you do now?"

"Not a thing, Sergeant!"

"Yeah, right!" he said.

A lowly Private First Class doesn't chit chat with the Headquarters First Sergeant. Our ride back to headquarters was in silence.

I was driven to the front door. I jumped our and felt a twinge of anxiety as I walked into the room.

Because I worked at 82nd Airborne DivArty Headquarters in the Public Information Office I saw officers all the time but I was not ready for all the brass in the orderly room. Our captain, two lieutenants, a Major, two lieutenant colonels, a full colonel and our command Sergeant Major were all standing in the room.

All I could think about was, "Oh, man, what have I done now?!"

Captain Robert E. Whitbeck, CO of the Headquarters Battery, was all soldier and a man for whom I had a tremendous amount of respect. He stepped out of his office and looked me up and down. "Well, Sayers, I have a message for you."

"I don't understand, Sir.", I said.

"Neither do we," he said motioning to the array of other officers in the room. "I'm going to tell you what happened and you are going to tell me why. Do you understand?"

"I understand, Sir."

"One hour and twenty minutes ago I received a direct, personal telephone call from Lieutenant General Trapnell, Commanding General of the United States 3rd Army. Do you know who he is?"

"Yes, of course I do, Captain. He's in our chain of command."

"Well, PFC Sayers, Lieutenant General Trapnell told me that he had called to say 'Hello' to you. Since you weren't here to talk with him he asked for me instead."

"I don't understand, Sir."

"Neither do we, Sayers," as he again motioned to the other officers. "But we sure would like to know what's going on. Inform the Sergeant Major when you determine why he called. We are all quite curious."

"So am I sir. I will tell you when I find out, Sir."

"You are dismissed."

I saluted and did an abrupt about face.

For days I pondered why General Trapnell would call to say hello to me, a lowly private. A three star general is a high rank and General Trapnell was pretty much a hero in the eyes of us in his command. He survived the Battaan Death March and received his jump wings in the early years of airborne warfare. I felt honored, no matter what his reason for calling.

Word got around fast, and I was continually picked on--in a good natured way--by nearly everyone who heard the story. Gradually, after a week or so, no one talked about it.

A few months later I had two weeks leave at Christmas. It was wonderful to be home during the holidays.

During our family Christmas dinner, my granddad asked me if I had heard from General Trapnell. I was was astounded! I couldn't imagine how my granddad knew that the general had called to say hello.

"How would you know about that?!" I asked.

"I suggested that he call you the day he and other generals came for fitting." he replied.

Granddad explained that a few months earlier General Trapnell and a some other high-ranking officers came to the family golf club making business for custom fittings of golf clubs.  Apparently, during the time the officers were there, granddad asked the officers where they were stationed. When they told him they were from Ft. Bragg, NC, where I was stationed, he told General Trapnell to give me a call. Granddad knew nothing of military hierarchy and regulations and actually suggested that General Trapnell contact me so we could play golf together!

General Trapnell kept his word and actually gave me a call. He was probably quite relieved that I wasn't around when he called so he wouldn't have to suggest that we play golf together. A one stripe private playing golf with a three star general probably wasn't something that would ever happen.

The situation was actually a bit more interesting. When I enlisted into the Army, Eisenhower was president. President Eisenhower had been using Sayers golf clubs for many years. During my teen years while working at our golf shop, I often watched granddad take Eisenhower's personal data card for the president's clubs from the files and show it to customers and friends.

Granddad was as proud of having the president for a customer as the president was to be using George Sayers golf clubs. Granddad told us that someone from the Pentagon had advised General Trapnell and the other officers to '...go see George Sayers for your custom fitting...and he'll help you with your game."

On my way back to Ft. Bragg after Christmas leave I chuckled about telling Captain Whitbeck why the general had called to say hello to me.

I reported to our Sergeant Major that I had the answer to Captain Whitbeck's question and he called the Captain to let him know. When the Captain walked in I snapped to attention and he asked me about the details of why I got that call. I told him the sequence of events that took place. I also made it a point to mention that our family company had made President Eisenhower's custom golf clubs.

Many of the officers who were in the room when I was first asked about the telephone call had served with the 82nd Airborne Division when President Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II.

The officers at Headquarters treated me differently after the General called to say "hello".

 


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