September 23, 2016
Last January, I decided to post what I had considered some of Carroll “Lex” LeFon’s best posts over his 9 year period of blogging under his pseudonym Neptunus Lex. Were all of these his best? I am sure that I would get some discussion from Lex.
I had felt if a book were to be published, these would be likely candidates for inclusion. This is in effect a “book” in the medium that Lex helped to pioneer. To be more precise, it is my idea of what a book based on his blog posts would comprise.
If it weren’t for the foresight of one Lexican in saving most of his posts, we would have had virtually nothing as his website went down shortly after his accident. By my estimation, we have about 70% of his work. The rest went to the “bit bucket”, probably gone forever. However, if you look around, you will still see some of his posts around the world here and there.
Lex touched a lot of people.
Whenever I have mentioned one of his posts to a family member or friend, I’ve referred to Lex as “my Navy pilot friend”. This undoubtedly sounds strange to one who knows I never even personally met him; having only become “acquainted” through his writing.
At this stage of my life, I have become all too aware of the fact that without realization we all live moment to moment and none of us can know when our time here is finished. At any age.
So I have wondered why I speak of Lex in the present tense.
I can say that having read all that we had of his posts – several times – I gradually came to know him.
Lex existed in 2 worlds that he deliberately kept separate and apart. In the physical realm, as I had mentioned in my post starting this series, he was quiet and reserved. He was by his own admission a very private person. One reason for this was of course his work life and being a Navy officer. Only in the blogging world in cyberspace did he reveal his other world.
He had a wide influence from his neighbor to people around the world.
While walking his dog to get the mail, his neighbor casually told him that he really enjoyed this blog from Neptunus Lex, never realizing that his neighbor Carroll and Neptunus Lex were one in the same. And upon hearing this compliment, Lex never revealed his secret blogging identity. I wonder if he at least smiled, or had a poker face?
Maybe Lex was the Superman/Clark Kent of blogging!
The very first post that I read of his, introduced to me by David Foster of Chicagoboyz.net after that fateful day, was for me both hilarious and in a more profound sense, illustrative of his character. Here he was among the “best of the best” in naval aviation – a former TOPGUN instructor and XO, but he could still laugh at himself. At least my stereotype of a fighter pilot is definitely not one of quiet introspection with a sense of humor.
He was one of the first milbloggers and if that was all he wrote about, he would still be remembered today for the quality of his writing and reporting. His initial motivation for starting his blog was to bypass the media filter in 2003 and tell people what things were really like in the Middle East. Over a short time his blog evolved to far more than war reporting.
He had wanted to write a book, and studied on how to write a book. But, if I remember his story right, he was trying to decide what to write about and could find no passion for any of the subjects he considered. And to write material that other people want to read, an author needs some passion in the subject. If the author has no interest in the subject how can the reader be interested in reading his material?
Sometime later, that desire for literary creativity found its outlet not in a book but in the then burgeoning World Wide Web. And shortly after he started, that passion necessary to write anything of consequence found its way in his writing. I’m not sure even he was aware of it. He asked the reader, “Did I write for you, gentle reader? Or did I write for me?”. He honestly didn’t know.
And in what subject did Lex find a passion?
Life, with all of its seriousness and humor.
His passion for life, for his family, his Navy and aviation is all evident here. And he welcomed us, the readers, along for the ride.
Some of his posts make you laugh and some make you think. I laughed so hard at a couple of his posts that tears were coming. I learned so much about Navy life and the sacrifices not only our servicemen and women make while deployed, but the sacrifices that their families make back home. I thought as an old Army veteran “those Navy guys” lived a luxurious life with clean sheets and good food. Until Lex revealed to me a far more Spartan life aboard ship.
He had a very moving post reflecting on his life of Naval service, knowing of all of the accrued years while at sea he missed at home with his family.
He was far more than a milblogger.
He considered many of you the readers to be some of the “best friends he never met”. He enjoyed the quality of discussion among his “commentariat”. He encouraged those with divergent views to bring them to the table for a reasoned and polite discussion. He believed that we could all learn from each other.
Lex shared his life with us.
We were introduced to his world including The Hobbit, SNO, The Biscuit, The Kat, and even Gus the dachshund. We learned of people important and memorable to him in his Naval Aviation career.
If all Lex taught me was about the Navy and what they have done during these turbulent times, I would still remember him.
But I wouldn’t be writing this now.
Over time, he became the best friend I never met. A bit of Lex lives on with me.
I am pleased to learn that Lex has been getting some new readers. I have wanted people to be able to read his posts in the same order that he wrote them, and the same order that they have been reposted here. In these 10 months, we go from the beginning in 2003 to 2012. There is one small exception to this. I put a couple of his early posts at the beginning out of chronological sequence, as Lex introduces himself.
There is an indexed list of all of these posts at the home page allowing people to, in Hizzoner’s own words, “discover the lightness of Lex”.
If one measure of one’s life is how many people were enriched by having known him, then Lex left a pretty big footprint.
Here’s a few tributes from some of them:
In the days after 9/11 I had lost my way; everything I thought I knew about what I believed and my place in the world – changed. When I found Lex’s blog I found a warrior poet and a community of people who sustained me in my confusion. Lex and his writings helped me navigate my way thru the changes in the very foundations of my belief systems. He and the community he created gave me a safe place to rethink what I believed and how I felt about so many things; they helped me gain the confidence to share my thoughts and opinions. I am a better person – more compassionate, less quick to judge, more well-read and more confident about what I believe and how to defend those beliefs – because I met Lex through his blog.
Kris, aka Kris in New England
When life hit the fan a short while ago and many people I thought were my friends scattered like cockroaches on the kitchen counter when the light goes on, Lex was one of several people offering a voice of calm reassurance in the midst of a very dark time. He dropped me a note early on and asked if I was ok. I was not, and he talked me back from the edge on several occasions – always with the gentle reassuring tone. And once things had settled down a bit, I could count on him to drop a note here and there, especially if he hadn’t seen me at his place or if I hadn’t been posting on my blog.
We stayed in touch sporadically and he was always quick to respond if I emailed him, even though (like others have said) there were dozens of us and only one of him. He was good at making you feel special. Even if you weren’t.
I remember the first time I commented on his blog – not so much which post or subject was discussed – but the joy that was had when he responded. Feeling incredibly out of my league over there, commenting took a lot of courage as I really felt I had nothing to contribute to the incredible conversations taking place there. Occasionally I’d get it right and I’d be rewarded (as it were) with a blue rectangle below my comment (indicating the author was responding). I was like a child who’s parent acknowledges their hard work. I think I rode that high for the rest of the day and into the next.
I think that was one of the things I liked best about him – he had the same, gentle way about this as my father. And I’m sure he’s rolling his eyes right now on being equated to my dad. But that’s how it felt – he was kind, generous with his knowledge, always looking to impart some wisdom, and I admired the hell out of him. I am grateful that I had the chance to tell him that in writing and in person.
I never met Lex in person. Swapped emails with him, once. Stumbled across his blog quite by accident when searching for news on my son-in-law’s old squadron. The post title was “Big Victory.”
Let’s just say, the man told the story exactly how it happened as confirmed to me by guys who were there. So I bookmarked his blog, Neptunus Lex, and very quickly that became my first stop on the web, every day. Morning coffee could wait, breakfast could wait, the daily read at Neptunus Lex could not. All too soon it was over. I came to Lex’s blog late in its run, mid 2011 as I recall. Then in March of 2012, it was over. On an airfield in the high desert of Nevada, in wind and snow, it was over.
In aviation you realize that people you know may be lost, you pray that it won’t happen, but it does. When I heard the news, something inside me died, yet something else was born. One door closes, another opens. I have a blog now. Why? I couldn’t read Lex, I needed something to fill that void, to somehow ease that dull, nagging ache of what had been lost. So I started my own.
No, it doesn’t replace what was lost, but it helps. I do my own small part to keep the man’s memory alive. On a snowy day in Nevada I lost a friend, and found 400 plus new friends. One door closes, another door opens.
To Lex, Ave Atque Vale.
Old AF Sarge
Some years ago my Military son before leaving for a deployment told me “Mom, if you want to understand what I do, read this guy.” And my education and enjoyment of Neptunus Lex began. As a teacher and writer I knew his writing was so far above the norm as to be found in the altitudes at which he flew. Rare, wise, insightful and so often, hysterically funny, he always left you with food for thought.
His topics could be anything from walking the dog, advanced flight discussions and stories (always keeping in mind he was writing for those not initiated in all the vernacular that comes with the military and aviation), posts about his children and spouse (a great lady), clearly showing where the center of his world and heart clearly were, military humor and posts on the state of the country and world affairs.
As I read I began to understand, not just more about military aviation but also to appreciate his views on so many different things. Whatever the topic there was always something you took away with you. Discussions on his page were lively and well moderated by our erudite scribe whose grasp of the depth and breadth of knowledge and history was unparalleled in my experience.
For the younger aviators there was so much – someone who had been there and truly understood and articulated their duty and lives. For the rest of us, it was a daily bright spot, often making you think. Thanks to Lex I did learn much more that helped me understand my son’s life work and for that I am forever grateful. I once sent him a video (begging not to say from whence it came) that he posted on his blog and I still have and treasure the email he sent me regarding that.
He just made so many things better. A man with tales to tell – and we, his readers, were enlightened, moved or amused as he chose. Thanks Lex.
Although I only knew him as “Neptunus Lex” and never met him in person, his many faithful readers (both of them, he would claim) met daily on his blog, and learned, laughed and loved along with him. I have never enjoyed reading any other writings as much as his.
He had a true gift, and unsurpassed mastery of the English language. His word pictures took us aloft on his flights to experience the exhilaration, suspense and the dangers of his chosen profession. His enthusiastic love of flying all types of aircraft, and learning from it all and sharing it with others was inescapable. But there was much more than flying.
As a fellow retired Navy man, albeit a generation older and a “blackshoe professional surface warfare officer,” I could relate to his adaptation to retirement, his sense of loss of the familiar way of life, and his joy at finding new interests. However, his love of family remained constant, and we readers shared his pride in the entire family’s successes, and concerns with struggles in difficult times.
Lex’s leadership skills shone brightly. His unquestioned honor and integrity, plus his varied skills and experiences made him a truly unique and inspirational role model Officer and Gentleman. Every young officer would do well to read Neptunus Lex and emulate the many habits of good leaders Lex observed, and avoid the errors of bad ones.
It is great consolation that the “Lexicans” site emerged, providing recycled Lex posts which partially fill the void left by his passing, and his keen observations, pithy wit and artful phrases to be enjoyed again. Let us not mourn his passing, but celebrate that he left us so much to enjoy.
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)