Saying goodbye to a brother in arms


Until this year, Veterans Day had become a relatively mundane affair for me.  As a 24-year veteran of the US Army, I’ve had my share of “Thank you for your service,” free meals from a special menu at (name your restaurant), and 10% discounts “for one day only” at various stores.  However, after this year Veteran’s Day will never be the same, as it is henceforth the day I said goodbye to a brother in arms.

In 1981 my wife and I were assigned military quarters in a duplex on a hilltop overlooking Godman Army Airfield at Fort Knox, Kentucky. I was a young captain serving in the Field Artillery. The couple living on the other side of the unit was approaching the end of their tour of duty at Fort Knox. It wasn’t long before they were gone and a new family moved in.  Although we were unaware at the time, God’s hand was moving in our lives by giving us these new neighbors.

Bill and Susan were a unique couple.  Susan was a former Army officer and a member of the last generation of the Women’s Army Corps—the women’s element of the US Army. The WAC, as it was called, was disbanded in 1978, and all units were integrated with male units. Bill, or “Flip” as he was better known to many of his friends, was a figure larger than life. He was a soldier’s soldier—what every professional soldier aspires to be.  Commissioned as an Infantry officer, Flip was highly decorated in Vietnam, winning a Silver Star for valor in action against the enemy, two Purple Hearts in recognition of his status as a twice-wounded soldier, the Legion of Merit, and two Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry. He also earned the Ranger tab and a coveted Combat Infantryman Badge, or C.I.B., in recognition as his service as an Infantryman in combat. When I met him, Flip was an officer in the Army’s Aviation Branch, a helicopter pilot flying Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, better known as “the Huey.” I was in awe!

Despite my being 10+ years younger and of lesser rank, Flip never let that stand between us.  He quickly became both a friend and mentor. Most importantly, he was a man of God.  Flip had a deep faith that he was not shy about sharing with others. He and Susan introduced my wife Linda and me to the Anglican form of liturgical worship, which eventually led to us becoming Anglicans ourselves. What a wonderful gift!  Bill and Susan would later become the godparents of our two daughters and, in turn, their two children would become like daughters to us.

My friend Flip died on August 21, 2020. During this time of pandemic, we were fortunate to participate in his online memorial service on Veterans Day.  Like too many Vietnam veterans, late in life Flip suffered numerous ailments connected with his military service.  The brave men and women who served in Vietnam are quickly declining in numbers today—many have reached their 70’s and 80’s and there are even a few in their 90’s. They deserve our thanks and admiration, as well as the Veterans Administration’s medical support and other services that a grateful nation owes them.

For those who might have served as Army officers at Ft. Knox, KY in the early 1980’s, you’ll understand when I tell you that Flip and I often shared time together at the Fiddler’s Green.  But unlike forlorn cavalrymen in the poem by the same name, who are eternally destined to quench their thirst at an old-time canteen, the passing of my friend is no cause for sorrow or melancholy.  It’s a time for celebrating a life lived for God, family and country.  As with the passing of every Christian brother in arms whom I’ve bid a similar farewell, I rest assured knowing that I’ll see Flip again on that day when Christ restores all things on Earth to the original order that God intended. His departure leaves us with an emptiness which only Flip could fill, but we take comfort in assurance of the glorious reunion to come. Until that day, rest in peace brother!

In Memoriam

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) William John Filippini

August 26, 1944 – August 21, 2020

Fiddler’s Green

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robert Hahnebohm on November 28, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Zach – sorry for the loss of your very good friend and a honorable veteran.  My deepest sympathy tot eh Filippini family.Hope and praying that the entire Hubbard family is doing well and all are healthy during this Covid pandemic.  I always read your posts and thank you for sharing them with me.   I greatly appreciate it. Your Friend,Bob Hahnebohm

    Reply

  2. Posted by hosco6 on November 28, 2020 at 11:03 pm

    What a fine, thoughtful tribute to an honorable man.

    Thank you, Flip. Proud to have known you for a short while.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Brenda Neff on November 29, 2020 at 1:21 am

    Zack, this from-the-heart tribute is beautiful. While I didn’t know him, his spirit shined through.

    Be safe!

    Brenda

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply

  4. Posted by Dave Bowles on November 30, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Very well-written tribute Zack. It is interesting how God sees the big picture and puts people in our lives for a purpose when we may never know what is going on. I was also blessed to know many Godly men in during my time in uniform that had a profound impact on my life.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Cindy Fleeson on December 3, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    Zach, Your words always inspire me. I’m sorry for your loss. Stay well. Cindy F

    On Sat, Nov 28, 2020 at 12:26 PM Divine Simplicity wrote:

    > Zachary P. Hubbard posted: ” Until this year, Veterans Day had become a > relatively mundane affair for me. As a 24-year veteran of the US Army, > I’ve had my share of “Thank you for your service,” free meals from a > special menu at (name your restaurant), and 10% discounts “for one” >

    Reply

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