Jack Bryant and the Matryoshka envelopesPublished 2:58am Monday, April 14, 2008
Jack D. Bryant showed me his perseverance before he told me that was what he gained from his Tuskegee Airmen experience.
"If you have a mission," he says, "don't let anyone stop you from achieving your objective."
The first few times he contacted the Daily News, his envelope was returned.
He just kept putting his original letter in a larger envelope and mailing it again.
By the time I opened it, it was like a Matryoshka, those wooden Russian nesting doll sets made in varying sizes so each one fits inside another.
I kept opening envelopes until I thought it was some sort of prank rather than persistence.
I was honored to finally talk to Mr. Bryant by telephone.
All these years, and I never knew Dowagiac had a Tuskegee Airman, let alone two graduates who were part of the famed World War II black aviators.
Jack graduated from DHS in 1945.
His brother, B-25 pilot Joseph C. Bryant Jr., graduated from DHS in 1943 and died in 1969.
Jack was among 300 survivors from 996 Tuskegee Airmen whom President Bush and congressional leaders honored in March 2007 in the Capitol Rotunda with one of the nation's highest honors, Congressional Gold Medals.
A reception followed at the Library of Congress, which is quite a ways from Ashland Street in Dowagiac, where the Bryant brothers grew up.
Mr. Bryant, born June 5, 1927, will be 81. He still works three days a week while winding down his company and turning control over to his son.
He ended up in New England following engineering jobs.
A company he worked for in Quebec had an office in Boston.
He's been in Massachusetts 40 years now – half his life – but is "still an outsider."
He still hasn't acquired a "Ted Kennedy accent," though.
It's been several years since he returned to Dowagiac.
He came to a couple class reunions, but none recently.
His last time he remembers visiting with the late Joe Winchester.
As a 1945 graduate, his classmates included football teammate Ed Darr and Capt. Iven Carl Kincheloe, "my hero."
He said Kincheloe once urged Mr. Bryant to follow him into the space program.
Mr. Bryant still has a few relatives in Dowagiac, including first cousin David Steele of N. Lowe Street.
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: "What could possibly be the rationale for Gen. David Petraeus wanting a 'pause' in the U.S. withdrawal this summer? Perhaps it is that al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is the most potent force opposed to long-term U.S. bases in Iraq – and that a permanent presence has been the Bush administration's true goal in this war. I suspect the central question in Iraq now is not whether things will get better but whether the drive for a long-term, neocolonialist presence will make the situation irretrievably worse."
- Joe Klein in the April 21 Time magazine
- Vice President Dick Cheney's reaction to two thirds of Americans opposing the Iraq war
"Hillary Clinton is a brilliant woman whose many exemplary qualities are obscured by a campaign that fights as if it couldn't care less about collateral damage it might inflict – on the Democratic Party or on the front-runner for the nomination. That was always Bill Clinton's political method: Do what you have to do; apologize later, if necessary. You can't save the world unless you get elected, and to get elected you have to be what the people want. But maybe what the people want this time is a real person, rather than an image or a strategy. Hillary Clinton might start by making clear that she wants to be president, but not at any cost."
- Washington Post
columnist Eugene Robinson
Business as usual: A recession election year without pork projects? Unthinkable!
As Congress returned March 31 from a two-week spring recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reneged on the idea of a one-year moratorium on earmarks, the $18 billion in bacon lawmakers bring home.
She followed the Senate's lead – a resounding 71-29 mid-March vote. Lawmakers sent in so many pork pet projects that a House Appropriations Committee Web site crashed and the deadline for requests had to be extended.
Obit: Neil Aspinall, who looked after the Beatles' affairs for four decades until retiring last April, died of lung cancer March 24 in New York.