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'Greatest Generation' man from Smithsburg has 'gone on to glory'

December 21, 2008

By Al Allenback

When the phone rings at four forty-five in the morning, it's usually not good news. And that's why it is that this morning's wake up call from my daughter is especially difficult, because it brought news that I knew would be coming, that an old friend, mentor, and member of the Greatest Generation has fallen.

Don Currier, lieutenant colonel, USAF, Retired, veteran of World War II, Korea, and the Cold War, a businessman, author and teacher, who was known to many of you through his frequent columns on everything from public policy to economics in this paper for the last 40 years, has passed on.

I met Don in the summer of 1968, amid the swirling politics of that time because I was dating his daughter. After we shook hands and he learned of my interest in things military, he said, "Let me show you the great cities of Europe I've visited!" and then produced a stack of 8-by-10 black-and-white glossy photos of that war torn continent's metropolitan areas taken from 20,000 feet through the bomb bay of his B-24, each with a stack of 500-pound bombs clearly visible about 30 seconds from their destiny.

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"Remember, Al, the wolf does not eat sheep by proxy." I was taken aback but at the same time fascinated ... this guy is going to be interesting, I thought.

And for the next four decades, through life's many trials, good times and career challenges, Don and I were always able to pick up where we left off, regardless of how much distance or time had passed between us.

Don retired from the service at about the time I was experiencing some college and other life challenges and he taught me the value of sweat equity as we cleared and developed camping sites at his beloved Raven Rock Campground, where he, along with his remarkable lifelong partner, Helen, provided weekend breaks to others from the Pentagon rat race he knew only too well.

He influenced me to join the Air Force and encouraged me to go after piloting the A-10 "Warthog" (thanks, Hagerstown, for a great airplane!), which led to a wonderful and exciting 28 year career and a brush with combat over Iraq.

It was Don who informed me of my Dad's untimely passing when I was just starting out in the Air Force, and I guess I looked to him as a surrogate father. When there was a tough choice to be made, I always valued Don's opinion because he had "been there, done that" and he never sugar-coated the truth. The term "politically correct" wasn't a part of Don Currier's lexicon because, like the generation he belonged to, it was more important to let people know what you were for, not what you were against.

After Don's operation and treatment for congestive heart failure, he continued fighting against the inevitable.

I talked to him just before the election, and, of course, the conversation quickly turned to politics and the state of the nation.

It was reminiscent of the many talks we had throughout the years, with Don staunchly defending the conservative view and me riposting with the feelings of change beginning to sweep the country.

As our debate wore on, he became a bit more strident, and he reminded me of the old Don I knew and admired and respected so well, his mind still sharp and keen. "This is part of your therapy, Don," I told him, "to get your blood circulating!" He laughed and we hung up and I knew we wouldn't talk again, at least not on this side.

Don Currier was a strong influence on me and many others throughout his life and was a link to the tough times that this great Nation survived. If you have someone you hold dear who lived through those times, honor them and take their life stories to heart.

Don's legacy and the legacy of his generational fellows will be that their inspiring actions that saved the nation and the world will help us get through the next few difficult years.

We owe them nothing less.

Al Allenback, Colonel, USAF, Retired, is a 1967 graduate of Smithsburg High School and writes from Montgomery. Ala.

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